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Malone Dies 
The Unnamable 


Malone Dies 
The Unnamable 











Other works by Samuel Beckett 
in the Evergreen Books series : 


a novel 


(in Evergreen 
Review, Vol II No. 5) 


JV1 O L L O Y 


I am in my mother’s room. It’s I who live there now. I don’t 
know how I got tl^pre. Perhaps in an ambulance, certainly a vehicle 
of some kind. I was helped. I’d never have got there alone. There’s 
this man who comes every week. Perhaps I got here thanks to him. 
He says not. He gives me money and takes away the pages. So many 
pages, so much money. Yes, I work now, a little like I used to, 
except that I don’t know how to work any more. That doesn’t 
matter apparently. What I’d like now is to speak of the things that 
arc left, say my good-byes, finish dying. They don’t want that. Yes, 
there is more than one, apparently. But it’s always the same one 
that comes. You’ll do that later, he says. Good. The truth is I 
haven’t m’’ch will left. When he comes for the fresh pages he brings 
back the previous week’s. They arc marked with signs I don’t under- 
stand. Anyway I don’t read them. When I’ve done nothing he, gives 
me nothing, he scolds me. Yet I don’t work for money. For what 
then? I don’t know. The truth is I don’t know much. For example 
my mother’s death. Was she already cjpad when I came? Or did 
she only die later? I mean enough to bury. I don’t know. Perhaps 



they haven’t buried her yet. In any case I have her room. I sleep 
in her bed. I piss and shit in her pot. I have taken her place. I must 
resemble her more and more. All I need now is a son. Perhaps I 
have one somewhere. But I think not. He would be old now, nearly 
as old as myself. It was a little chambermaid. It wasn’t true love. 
The true love was in another. We’ll come to that. Her name? I’ve 
forgotten it again. It seems to me sometimes that I even knew my 
son, that I helped him. Then I tell myself it’s impossible. It’s impos- 
sible I could ever have helped anyone. I’ve forgotten how to spell 
too, and half the words. That doesn’t matter apparently. Good. He’s 
a queer one the one who conics to see me. He comes every Sunday 
apparently. The other days he isn't free. He’s always thirsty. It was 
he told me I’d begun all wrong, that I should have begun differently. 
He must be right. I began at the beginning, like an old ballocks, 
can you imagine that? Here’s my beginning. Because they’re keep- 
ing it apparently. I took a lot of trouble with it. Here it is. It gave 
me a lot of trouble. It was the beginning, do you understand? 
Whereas now it’s nearly the end. Is what I do now any better? I 
don’t know. That’s beside the point. Here's my beginning. It must 
mean something, or they wouldn’t keep it. Here it is. 

This time, then once more I think, then pprhaps a last time, 
then I think it’ll be over, with that world too. Premonition of the 
last but one but one. All grows dim. A little more and you’ll go 
blind. It’s in the head. It doesn’t work any more, it says, I don’t 
work any more. You go dumb as well and sounds fade. The 
threshold scarcely crossed that’s how it is. It’s the head. It must 
have had enough. So that you say. I’ll manage this time, then per- 
haps once more, then perhaps a last time, then nothing more. You 
are hard set to formulate this thought, for it is one, in a sense. Then 
you try to pay attention, to consider with attention all those dim 
things, saying to yourself, laboriously. It’s my fault. Fault? That 
was the word. But what fault? It’s not goodbye, and what magic 
in those dim things to which it will be time enough, when next 
they pass, to say goodbye. For you must say goodbye, it would be 
madness not to say goodbye, when the time comes. If you think of 
the forms and light of otjicr days it is without regret. But you 
seldom think of them, with what would you think of them? I don’t 



know. People pass too, hard to distinguish from yourself. That is 
discouraging. So I saw A and C going slowly towards each other, 
unconscious of what they were doing. It was on a road remarkably 
bare, I mean without hedges or ditches or any kind of edge, in the 
country, for cows were chewing in enormous fields, lying and stand- 
ing, in the evening silence. Perhaps I’m inventing a little, perhaps 
embellishing, but on the whole that’s the way it was. They chew, 
swallow, then after a short pause effortlessly bring up the next 
mouthful. A neck muscle stirs and the jaws begin to grind again. 
But perhaps I’m remembcring’things. The road, hard and white, 
seared the tender pastures, rose and fell at the whim of hills and 
hollows. The town was not far. It was two men, unmistakably, one 
small and one tall. They had left the town, first one, then the other, 
and then the first, weary or remembering a duty, had retraced his 
steps. The air was sharp, for they wore greatcoats. They looked alike, 
but no more than others do. At first a wide space lay between them. 
They couldn’t have seen each other, even had they raised their 
heads and looked about, because of this wide space, and then 
because of the undulating land, which caused the road to be in 
waves, not high, but high enough, high enough. But the moment 
came when together they went down into the same trough and in 
this trough finally met. To say they knew each other, no, nothing 
warrants it. But perhaps at the sound of their steps, or warned by 
some obscure instinct, they raised their heads and observed each 
other, for a good fifteen paces, before they stopped, breast to breast. 
Yes, they did not pass each other by, but halted, face to face, as 
in the country, of an evening, on a deserted road, two wayfaring 
strangers will, without there being anything extraordinary about it. 
But they knew each other perhaps. Now in any case they do, now I 
think they will know each other, greet each other, even in the depths 
of the town. They turned towards the sea which, far in the east, 
beyond the fields, loomed high in the waning sky, and exchanged 
a few words. Then each went on his way. Each went on his way, 
A back towards the town, C on by ways he seemed hardly to know, 
or not at all, for he went with uncertain step and often stopped to 
look about him, like someone trying to fix landmarks in his mind, 
for one day perhaps he may have to retrace his steps, you never 



know. The treacherous hills where fearfully he ventured were no 
doubt only known to him from afar, seen perhaps from his bedroom 
window or from the summit of a monument which, one black day, 
having nothing in particular to do and turning to height for solace, 
he had paid his few coppers to climb, slower and slower, up the 
winding stones. From there he must have seen it all, the plain, the 
sea. and then these selfsame hills that some call mountains, indigo 
in places in the evening light, their serried ranges crowding to the 
skyline, cloven with hidden valleys that the eye divines from sudden 
shifts of colour and then from other signs for which there are no 
words, nor even thoughts. But all are not divined, even from that 
height, and often where only one escarpment is discerned, and one 
crest, in reality there are two, two escarpments, two crests, riven 
by a valley. But now he knows these hills, that is to say he knows 
them better, and if ever again he sees them from afar it will be I 
think with other eyes, and not only that but the within, all that 
inner space one never secs, the brain and heart and other caverns 
where thought and feeling dance their sabbath, all that too quite 
differently disposed. He looks old and it is a sorry sight to see him 
solitary after so many years, so many days and nights unthinkingly 
given to that rumour rising at birth and even earlier. What shall 
I do? What shall I do? now low, a murmur, now precise as the 
headwaiter’s And to follow? and often rising to a scream. And in 
the end, or almost, to be abroad alone, by unknown ways, in the 
gathering night, with a stick. It was a stout stick, he used it to thrust 
himself onward, or as a defence, when the time came, against dogs 
and marauders. Yes, night was gathering, but the man was innocent, 
greatly innocent, he had nothing to fear, though he went in fear, 
he had nothing to fear, there was nothing they could do to him, or 
very little. But he can’t have known it. I wouldn’t know it myself, 
if I thought about it. Yes, he saw himself threatened, his body 
threatened, his reason threatened, and perhaps he was, perhaps they 
were, in spite of his innocence. What business has innocence here? 
What relation to the innumerable spirits of darkness? It’s not clear. 
It seemed to me he wore a cocked hat. I remember being struck 
by it, as I wouldn’t have been for example by a cap or by a bowler. 
I watched him recede, overtaken (myself) by his anxiety, at least 



by an anxiety which was not necessarily his, but of which as it 
were he partook. Who knows if it wasn’t my own anxiety over- 
taking him. He hadn’t seen me. I was perched higher than the road’s 
highest point and flattened what is more against a rock the same 
colour as myself, that is grey. The rock he probably saw. He gazed 
around as if to engrave the landmarks on his memory and must 
have seen the rock in the shadow of which I crouched like Belacqua, 
or Sordello, I forget. But a man, a fortiori myself, isn’t exactly a 
landmark, because, I mean if by some strange chance he were to 
pass that way again, after a long lapse of time, vanquished, or to 
look for some lost thing, or to destroy something, his eyes would 
search out the rock, not the haphazard in its shadow of that un- 
stable fugitive thing, still living flesh. No, he certainly didn’t see 
me, for the reasons I’ve given and then because he was in no 
humour for that, that evening, no humour for the living, but rather 
for all that doesn’t stir, or stirs so slowly that a child would scorn 
it, let alone an old man. However that may be, I mean whether he 
saw me or whether he didn’t, I repeat I watched him recede, at 
grips (myself) with the temptation to get up and follow him, perhaps 
even to catch - up with him one day, so as to know him better, be 
myself less lonely But in spite of my soul’s leap out to him, at the 
end of its elastic. I saw him only darkly, because of the dark and 
then because of the terrain, in the folds of which he disappeared 
from time to time, to re-emerge further on, but most of all I think 
because of other things calling me and towards which too one after 
the other my soul was straining, wildly. I mean, of course, the 
fields, whitening under the dew, and the animals, ceasing from 
wandering and settling for the night, and the sea, of which nothing, 
and the sharpening line of crests, and the sky where without seeing 
them I felt the first stars tremble, and my hand on my knee and 
above all the other wayfarer, A or C, I don’t remember, going 
resignedb' home. Yes, towards my hand also, which my knee felt 
tremble and of which my eyes saw the wrist only, the heavily veined 
back, the pallid rows of knuckles. But that is not, I mean my hand, 
what I wish to speak of now, everything in due course, but A or C 
returning to the town he had just left. ^But after all what was there 
particularly urban in his aspect? He was bare-headed, wore sand- 



shoes, smoked a cigar. He moved with a kind of loitering indolence 
which rightly or wrongly seemed to me expressive. But all that 
proved nothing, refuted nothing. Perhaps he had come from afar, 
from the other end of the island even, and was approaching the 
town for the first time or returning to it after a long absence. A little 
dog followed him, a pomeranian I think, but I don’t think so. I 
wasn’t sure at the time and I’m still not sure, though I’ve hardly 
thought about it. The little dog followed wretchedly, after the 
fashion of pomeranians, stopping, turning in slow circles, giving up 
and then, a little further on, beginning all over again. Constipation 
is a sign of good health in pomeranians. At a given moment, pre- 
established if you like, I don't much mind, the gentleman turned 
back, took the little creature in his arms, drew the cigar from his 
lips and buried his face in the orange fleece, for it was a gentleman, 
that was obvious. Yes, it was an orange pomeranian, the less I think 
of it the more certain I am. And yet. But would he have come from 
afar, bare-headed, in sand-shoes, smoking a cigar, followed by a 
pomeranian? Did he not seem rather to have issued from the ram- 
parts, after a good dinner, to take his dog and himself for a walk, 
like so many citizens, dreaming and farting, when the weather is 
fine? But was not perhaps in reality the cigar a c,utty. and were not 
the sand-shoes boots, hobnailed, dust-whitened, and what prevented 
the dog from being one of those stray dogs that you pick up and 
take in your arms, from compassion or because you have long been 
straying with no other company than the endless roads, sands, 
shingle, bogs and heather, than this nature answerable to another 
court, than at long intervals the fellow-convict you long to stop, 
embrace, suck, suckle and whom you pass by, with hostile eyes, for 
fear of his familiarities? Until the day when, your endurance gone, 
in this world for you without arms, you catch up in yours the first 
mangy cur you meet, carry it the time needed for it to love you and 
you it, then throw it away. Perhaps he had come to that, in spite of 
appearances. He disappeared, his head on his chest, the smoking 
object in his hand. Let me try and explain. From things about to 
disappear I turn away in time. To watch them out of sight, no, 
I can’t do it. It was in thij sense he disappeared. Looking away 
I thought of him, saying, He is dwindling, dwindling. I knew what 



I meant. I knew I could catch him, lame as I was. I had only to 
want to. And yet no, for I did want to. To get up, to get down on 
the road, to set off hobbling in pursuit of him, to hail him, what 
could be easier? He hears my cries, turns, waits for me. I am up 
against him, up against the dog, gasping, between my crutches. He 
is a little frightened of me, a little sorry for me, I disgust him not 
a little. I am not a pretty sight, I don’t smell good. What is it I 
want? Ah that tone I know, compounded of pity, of fear, of disgust. 
I want to see the dog, see the ^nan, at close quarters, know what 
smokes, inspect the shoes, find out other things. He is kind, 
tells me of this and that and other things, whence he comes, 
whither he goes. I believe him, I know it’s my only chance to — my 
only chance, I believe all I’m told. I’ve disbelieved only too much 
in my long life, now I swallow everything, greedily. What I need 
now is stories, it took me a long time to know that, and I’m not 
sure of it. There I am then, informed as to certain things, knowing 
certain things about him, things I didn’t know, things I had craved 
to know, things I had never thought of. What rigmarole. I am even 
capable of having learnt what his profession is, I who am so inter- 
ested in professions. And to think I try my best not to talk about 
myself. In a moment I shall talk about the cows, about the sky, if 
I can. There I am then, he leaves me, he’s in a hurry. He didn’t 
seem to be in a hurry, he was loitering. I’ve already said so, but 
after three minutes of me he is in a hurry, he has to hurry. I believe 
him. And once again I am, I will not say alone, no, that’s not like 
me, but, how shall I say, I don’t know, restored to myself, no, I 
never left myself, free, yes, I don’t know what that means, but it’s 
the word I mean to use, free to do what, to do nothing, to know, 
but what, the laws of the mind perhaps, of my mind, that for 
example water rises in proportion as it drowns you and that you 
would do better, at least no worse, to obliterate texts than to 
blacken margins, to fill in the holes of words till all is blank and 
flat and the whole ghastly business looks like what it is, senseless, 
speechless, issueless misery. So I doubtless did better, at least no 
worse, not to stir from my observation post. But instead of observ- 
ing I had the weakness to return in spipt to the other, the man with 
the stick. Then the murmurs began again. To restore silence is the 



role of objects. I said. Who knows if he hasn’t simply come out 
to take the air, relax, stretch his legs, cool his brain by stamping 
the blood down to his feet, so as to make sure of a good night, 
a joyous awakening, an enchanted morrow. Was he carrying so 
much as a scrip? But the way of walking, the anxious looks, the 
club, could these be reconciled with one’s conception of what is 
called a little turn? But the hat, a town hat, an old-fashioned town 
hat, which the least gust would carry far away. Unless it was 
attached' under the chin, by means of a string or an clastic. I took 
off my hat and looked at it. It is fastened, it has always been 
fastened, to my buttonhole, always the same buttonhole, at all 
seasons, by a long lace. I tfm still alive then. That may come in 
useful. The hand that held the hat I thrust as far as possible from 
me and moved in an arc, to and fro. As I did so, I watched the 
lapel of my greatcoat and saw it open and close. I understand 
now why I never wore a flower in my buttonhole, though it was 
large enough to hold a whole nosegay. My buttonhole was set aside 
for my hat. It was my hat that I beflowered. But it is neither of 
my hat nor of my greatcoat that I hope to speak at present, it would 
be premature. Doubtless I shall speak of them later, when the time 
comes to draw up the inventory of my goods and possessions. 
Unless I lose them between now and then. But even lost they will 
have their place, in the inventory of my possessions. But I am easy 
in my mind, I shall not lose them. Nor my crutches, I shall not lose 
my crutches either. But I shall perhaps one day throw them away. 
I must have been on the top, or on the slopes, of some considerable 
eminence, for otherwise how could I have seen, so far away, so 
near at hand, so far beneath, so many things, fixed and moving. 
But what was an eminence doing in this land with hardly a ripple? 
And I, what was I doing there, and why come? These are things 
that we shall try and discover. But these arc things we must not 
take seriously. There is a little of everything, apparently, in nature, 
and freaks are common. And I am perhaps confusing several dif- 
ferent occasions, and different times, deep down, and deep down 
is my dwelling, oh not deepest down, somewhere between the mud 
and the scum. And perhaps it was A one day at one place, then C 
another at another, then a third the rock and I, and so on for the 



other components, the cows, the sky, the sea, the mountains. I can’t 
believe it. No, I will not lie, I can easily conceive it. No* matter, 
no matter, let us go on, as if all arose from one and the same weari- 
ness, on and on heaping up and up, untfl there is no room, no light, 
for any more. What is certain is that the man with the stick did not 
pass by again that night, because I would have heard him, if he had. 
I don’t say I would have seen him, I say I would have heard him. 
I sleep little and that little by day. Oh not systematically, in my life 
without end I have dabbled with every kind of sleep, but at the time 
now coming back to me I toolc my doze in the daytime and, what 
is more, in the morning. Let me hear nothing of the moon, in my 
night there is no moon, and if it happens that I speak of the stars it 
is by mistake. Now of all the noises that night not one was of those 
heavy uncertain steps, or of that club with which he sometimes 
smote the earth until it quaked. How agreeable it is to be confirmed, 
after a more or less long period of vacillation, in one’s first impres- 
sions. Perhaps that is what tempers the pangs of death. Not that I 
was so conclusively, I mean confirmed, in my first impressions with 
regard to — wait — C. For the wagons and carts which a little before 
dawn went thundering by, on their way to market with fruit, eggs, 
butter and perhaps cheese, in one of these perhaps he would have 
been found, overcome by fatigue or discouragement, perhaps even 
dead. Or he might have gone back to the town by another way 
too far away for me to hear its sounds, or by little paths through 
the fields, crushing the silent grass, pounding the silent ground. And 
so at last I came out of that distant night, divided between the 
murmurs of my little world, its dutiful confusions, and those so 
different (so different?) of all that between two suns abides and 
passes away. Never once a human voice. But the cows, when the 
peasants passed, crying in vain to be milked. A and C I never saw 
again. But perhaps I shall see them again. But shall I be able to 
recognise them? And am I sure I never saw them again? And 
what do I mean by seeing and seeing again? An instant of silence, 
as when the conductor taps on his stand, raises his arms, before the 
unanswerable clamour. Smoke, sticks, flesh, hair, at evening, afar, 
flung about the craving for a fellow. I know how to summon these 
rags to cover my shame. I wonder what that means. But I shall not 



always be in need. But talking of the craving for a fellow let me 
observe that having waked between eleven o’clock and midday (I 
heard the angelus, recalling the incarnation, shortly after) I resolved 
to go and see my mother. I needed, before I could resolve to go and 
see that woman, reasons of an urgent nature, and with such reasons, 
since I did not know what to do, or where to go, it was child’s play 
for me, the play of an only child, to fill my mind until it was rid 
of all other preoccupation and I seized with a trembling at the mere 
idea of being hindered from going there, I mean to my mother, there 
and then. So I got up, adjusted my crutches and went down to the 
road, where I found my bicycle (I didn’t know I had one) in the 
same place I must have left it. Which enables me to remark that, 
crippled though I was, I was no mean cyclist, at that period. This 
is how I went about it. I fastened my crutches to the cross-bar, one 
on either side, I propped the foot of my stiff leg (I forget which, 
now they’re both stiff) on the projecting front axle, and I pedalled 
with the other. It was a chainless bicycle, with a free-wheel, if such 
a bicycle exists. Dear bicycle, I shall not call you bike, you were 
green, like so many of your generation. I don’t know why. It is a 
pleasure to meet it again. To describe it at length would be a 
pleasure. It had a little red horn instead of the bell fashionable in 
your days. To blow this horn was for me a real pleasure, almost a 
vice. I will go further and declare that if I were obliged to record, 
in a roll of honour, those activities which in the course of my inter- 
minable existence have given me only a mild pain in the balls, the 
blowing of a rubber horn — toot! — would figure among the first. 
And when I had to part from my bicycle I took off the horn and 
kept it about me. I believe I have it still, somewhere, and if I blow 
it no more it is because it has gone dumb. Even motor-cars have 
no horns nowadays, as I understand the thing, or rarely. When I 
see one, through the lowered window of a stationary car, I often 
stop and blow it. This should all be re-written in the pluperfect. 
What a rest to speak of bicycles and horns. Unfortunately it is not 
of them I have to speak, but of her who brought me into the world, 
through the hole in her arse if my memory is correct. First taste 
of the shit. So I shall only add that every hundred yards or so I 
stopped to rest my legs, the good one as well as the bad. and not 



only my legs, not only my legs. I didn’t properly speaking get down 
off the machine, I remained astride it, my feet on the grottnd, my 
arms on the handle-bars, my head on my arms, and I waited until 
I felt better. But before I leave this earthly paradise, suspended 
between the mountains and the sea, sheltered from certain winds 
and exposed to all that Auster vents, in the way of scents and 
langours, on this accursed country, it would ill become me not to 
mention the awful cries of the corncrakes that run in the corn, in 
the meadows, all the short summer night long, dinning their rattles. 
And this enables me, what is more, to know when that unreal 
journey began, the second last but one of a form fading among 
fading forms, and which I here declare without further ado to have 
begun in the second or third week of June, at the moment that is 
to say most painful of all when over what is called our hemisphere 
the sun is at its pitilessmost and the arctic radiance comes pissing 
on our midnights. It is then the corncrakes are heard. My mother 
never refused to see me, that is she never refused to receive me, 
for it was many a long day since she had seen anything at all. I 
shall try and speak calmly. We were so old, she and I, she had had 
me so young, that we were like a couple of old cronies, sexless, 
unrelated, with the same memories, the same rancours, the same 
expectations. She never called me son, fortunately, I couldn’t have 
borne it, but Dan, I don’t know why, my name is not Dan. Dan 
was my father’s name perhaps, yes, perhaps she took me for my 
father. I took her for my mother and she took me for my father. 
Dan, you remember the day I saved the swallow. Dan, you 
remember the day you buried the ring. I remembered, I remem- 
bered, I mean I knew more or less what she was talking about, and 
if I hadn't always taken part personally in the scenes she evoked, 
it was just as if I had. I called her Mag, when I had to call her 
something. And I called her Mag because for me, without my 
knowing' why. the letter g abolished the syllable Ma, and as it were 
spat on it, better than any other letter would have done. And at 
the same time I satisfied a deep and doubtless unacknowledged need, 
the need to have a Ma, that is a mother, and to proclaim it, audibly. 
For before you say mag, you say ma, inevitably. And da, in my 
part of the world, means father. Besides, for me the question did 



not arise, at the period I’m worming into now, I mean the question 
of whether to call her Ma, Mag or the Countess Caca, she having 
for countless years been as deaf as a post. I think she was quite 
incontinent, both of faeces and water, but a kind of prudishness 
made us avoid the subject when we met, and I could never be 
certain of it. In any case it can’t have amounted to much, a few 
niggardly wetted goat-droppings, every two or three days. The room 
smelt of ammonia, oh not merely of ammonia, but of ammonia, 
ammonia. She knew it was me, by my smell. Her shrunken, hairy 
old face lit up, she was happy to smell me. She jabbered away with 
a rattle of dentures and most of the time didn’t realize what she 
was saying. Anyone but myself would have been lost in this clat- 
tering gabble, which can only have stopped during her brief instants 
of unconsciousness. In any case I didn’t come to listen to her. I got 
into communication with her by knocking on her skull. One knock 
meant yes, two no, three I don’t know, four money, five goodbye. 
I was hard put to ram this code into her ruined and frantic under- 
standing, but I did it, in the end. That she should confuse yes, no, 
I don’t know and goodbye, was all the same to me, I confused them 
myself. But that she should associate the four knocks with anything 
but money was something to be avoided at all ( costs. During the 
period of training therefore, at the same time as I administered the 
four knocks on her skull, I stuck a bank-note under her nose or in 
her mouth. In the innocence of my heart ! For she seemed to have 
lost, if not absolutely all notion of mensuration, at least the faculty 
of counting beyond two. It was too far for her, yes, the distance 
was too great, from one to four. By the time she came to the fourth 
knock she imagined she was only at the second, the first two having 
been erased from her memory as completely as if they had never 
been felt, though I don’t quite see how something never felt can 
be erased from the memory, and yet it is a common occurrence. 
She must have thought I was saying no to her all the time, whereas 
nothing was further from my purpose. Enlightened by these con- 
siderations I looked for and finally found a more effective means 
of putting the idea of money into her head. This consisted in replac- 
ing the four knocks of my index knuckle by one or more (according 
to my needs) thumps of the fist, on her skull. That she understood. 



In any case I didn’t come for money. I took her money, but I didn’t 
come for that. My mother. I don’t think too harshly of her.’I know 
she did all she could not to have me, except of course the one thing, 
and if she never succeeded in getting me unstuck, it was that fate 
had earmarked me for less compassionate sewers. But it was well- 
meant and that’s enough for me. No it is not enough for me, but I 
give her credit, though she is my mother, for what she tried to do 
for me. And I forgive her for having jostled me a little in the first 
months and spoiled the only endurable, just endurable, period of 
my enormous history. And I*also give her credit for not having 
done it again, thanks to me, or for having stopped in time, when she 
did. And if ever I’m reduced to looking for a meaning to my life, 
you never can tell, it’s in that old mess I’ll stick my nose to begin 
with, the mess of that poor old uniparous whore and myself the 
last of my foul brood, neither man nor beast. I should add, before 
I get down to the facts, you’d swear they were facts, of that distant 
summer afternoon, that with this deaf, blind, impotent, mad old 
woman, who called me Dan and whom I called Mag, and with her 
alone, I — no, I can’t say it. That is to say, I could say it, but I 
won’t say it, yes, I could say it easily, because it wouldn’t be true. 
What did I see of her? A head always, the hands sometimes, the 
arms rarely. A head always. Veiled with hair, wrinkles, filth, 
slobber. A head that darkened the air. Not that seeing matters, but 
it’s something to go on with. It was I who took the key from under 
the pillow, who took the money out of the drawer, who put the 
key back under the pillow. But I didn’t come for money. I think 
there was a woman who came each week. Once I touched with my 
lips, vaguely, hastily, that little grey wizened pear. Pah. Did that 
please her? 1 don’t know. Her babble stopped for a second, then 
began again. Perhaps she said to herself. Pah. I smelt a terrible 
smell. It must have come from the bowels. Odour of antiquity. Oh 
I’m no! criticizing her, I don’t diffuse the perfumes of Araby myself. 
Shall I describe the room? No. I shall have occasion to do so later 
perhaps. When I seek refuge there, beat to the world, all shame 
drunk, my prick in my rectum, who knows. Good. Now that we 
know where we’re going, let’s go there. It’s so nice to know where 
you’re going, in the early stages. It almost rids you of the wish to 



go there. I was distraught, who am so seldom distraught, from what 
should* I be distraught, and as to my motions even more uncertain 
than usual. The night must have tired me. at least weakened me, 
and the sun, hoisting itself higher and higher in the east, had 
poisoned me, while I slept. I ought to have put the bulk of the rock 
between it and me before closing my eyes. I confuse east and west, 
the poles too, I invert them readily. I was out of sorts. They are 
deep, my sorts, a deep ditch, and I am not often out of them. That’s 
why I mention it. Nevertheless I covered several miles and found 
myself -under the ramparts. There I’dismounted in compliance with 
the regulations. Yes, cyclists entering and leaving town are required 
by the police to dismount, cars to go into bottom gear and horse- 
drawn vehicles to slow down to a walk. The reason for this regula- 
tion is I think this, that the ways into and, of course, out of this 
town are narrow and darkened by enormous vaults, without excep- 
tion. It is a good rule and I observe it religiously, in spite of the 
difficulty I have in advancing on my crutches pushing my bicycle 
at the same time. I managed somehow. Being ingenious. Thus we 
cleared these difficult straits, my bicycle and I, together. But a little 
further on I heard myself hailed. I raised my head and saw a police- 
man. Elliptically speaking, for it was only later, by way of induc- 
tion, or deduction, I forget which, that I knew what it was. What are 
you doing there? he said. I’m used to that question, I understood 
it immediately. Resting, I said. Resting, he said. Resting, I said. 
Will you answer my question? he cried. So it always is when I’m 
reduced to confabulation, I honestly believe I have answered the 
question I am asked and in reality I do nothing of the kind. I won’t 
reconstruct the conversation in all its meanderings. It ended in my 
understanding that my way of resting, my attitude when at rest 
astride my bicycle, my arms on the handlebars, my head on my 
arms, was a violation of I don’t know what, public order, public 
decency. Modestly, I pointed to my crutches and ventured one or two 
noises regarding my infirmity, which obliged me to rest as I could, 
rather than as I should. But there are not two laws, that was the next 
thing I thought I understood, not two laws, one for the healthy, 
another for the sick, but one only to which all must bow, rich and 
poor, young and old, happy and sad. He was eloquenl 



out that I was not sad. That was a mistake. Your papers, he said, 
I knew it a moment later. Not at all, I said, not at all. Your papers! 
he cried. Ah my papers. Now the only papers I carry with me are 
bits of newspaper, to wipe myself, you understand, when I have a 
stool. Oh I don’t say I wipe myself every time I have a stool, no, 
but I like to be in a position to do so, if I have to. Nothing strange 
about that, it seems to me. In a panic I took this paper from my 
pocket and thrust it under his nose. The weather was fine. We took 
the little side streets, quiet, sunlit, I springing along between my 
crutches, he pushing my bicydle, with the tips of his white-gloved 
fingers. I wasn’t — I didn’t feel unhappy. I stopped a moment, I 
made so bold, to lift my hand and touch the crown of my hat. It 
was scorching. I felt the faces turning to look after us, calm faces 
and joyful faces, faces of men, of women and of children. I seemed 
to hear, at a certain moment, a distant music. I stopped, the better 
to listen. Go on, he said. Listen, I said. Get on, he said. I wasn’t 
allowed to listen to the music. It might have drawn a crowd. He 
gave me a shove. I had been touched, oh not my skin, but none 
the less my skin had felt it, it had felt a man’s hard fist, through 
its coverings. While still putting my best foot foremost I gave 
myself up to that golden moment, as if I had been someone else. 
It was the hour of rest, the forenoon’s toil ended, the afternoon’s 
to come. The wisest perhaps, lying in the squares or sitting on their 
doorsteps, were savouring its languid ending, forgetful of recent 
cares, indifferent to those at hand. Others on the contrary were 
using it to hatch their plans, their heads in their hands. Was there 
one among them to put himself in my place, to feel how removed 
I was then from him I seemed to be, and in that remove what strain, 
as of hawsers about to snap? It’s possible. Yes, I was straining 
towards those spurious deeps, their lying promise of gravity and 
peace, from all my old poisons I struggled towards them, safely 
bound. CJnder the blue sky, under the watchful gaze. Forgetful of 
my mother, set free from the act, merged in this alien hour, saying. 
Respite, respite. At the police station I was haled before a very 
strange official. Dressed in plain-clothes, in his shirt-sleeves, he was 
sprawling in an arm-chair, his feet on his desk, a straw hat on his 
head and protruding from his mouth "a thin flexible object I could 



not identify. I had time to become aware of these details before 
he dismissed me. He listened to his subordinate’s report and then 
began to interrogate me in a tone which, from the point of view 
of civility, left increasingly to be desired, in my opinion. Between 
his questions and my answers, I mean those deserving of considera- 
tion, the intervals were more or less long and turbulent. I am so 
little used to being asked anything that when I am asked something 
I take some time to know what. And the mistake I make then is 
this, that instead of quietly reflecting on what I have just heard, 
and heard distinctly, not being hard of hearing, in spite of all I 
have heard, I hasten to answer blindly, fearing perhaps lest my 
silence fan their anger to fury. I am full of fear, I have gone in 
fear all my life, in fear of blows. Insults, abuse, these I can easily 
bear, but I could never get used to blows. It’s strange. Even spits 
still pain me. But they have only to be a little gentle, I mean refrain 
from hitting me, and I seldom fail to give satisfaction, in the long 
run. Now the sergeant, content to threaten me with a cylindrical 
ruler, was little by little rewarded for his pains by the discovery 
that I had no papers in the sense this word had a sense for him, 
nor any occupation, nor any domicile, that my surname escaped 
me for the moment and that I was on my way to my mother, whose 
charity kept me dying. As to her address, I was in the dark, but 
knew how to get there, even in the dark. The district? By the 
shambles your honour, for from my mother’s room, through the 
closed windows, I had heard, stilling her chatter, the bellowing of 
the cattle, that violent raucous tremulous bellowing not of the 
pastures, but of the towns, their shambles and cattle-markets. Yes, 
after all, I had perhaps gone too far in saying that my mother 
lived near the shambles, it could equally well have been the cattle- 
market, near which she lived. Never mind, said the sergeant, it’s 
the same district. I took advantage of the silence which followed 
these kind words to turn towards the window, blindly or nearly, 
for I had closed my eyes, proffering to that blandness of blue and 
gold my face and neck alone, and my mind empty too, or nearly, 
{or I must have been wondering if I did not feel like sitting down, 
after such a long time standing, and remembering what I had learnt 
in that connection, namely fliat the sitting posture was not for me 



any more, because of my short stiff leg, and that there were only 
two postures for me any more, the vertical, drooping between my 
crutches, sleeping on my feet, and the horizontal, down on the 
ground. And yet the desire to sit down came upon me from time 
to time, back upon me from a vanished world. And I did not 
always resist it, forewarned though I was. Yes, my mind felt it 
surely, this tiny sediment, incomprehensibly stirring like grit at the 
bottom of a puddle, while on my face and great big Adam’s apple 
the air of summer weighed agd the splendid summer sky. And 
suddenly I remembered my name, Molloy. My name is Molloy. 
I cried, all of a sudden, now I remember. Nothing compelled me 
to give this information, but I gave it, hoping to please I suppose. 
They let me keep my hat on, I don’t know why. Is it your mother’s 
name? said the sergeant, it must have been a sergeant. Molloy, I 
cried, my name is Molloy. Is that your mother’s name? said the 
sergeant. What? I said. Your name is Molloy, said the sergeant. 
Yes, I said, now I remember. And your mother? said the sergeant. 
I didn’t follow. Is your mother’s name Molloy too? said the sergeant. 
I thought it over. Your mother, said the sergeant, is your mother’s 
— Let me think ! I cried. At least I imagine that’s how it was. Take 
your time, said the sergeant. Was mother’s name Molloy? Very 
likely. Her name must be Molloy too, I said. They took me away, 
to the guardroom I suppose, and there I was told to sit down. I 
must have tried to explain. I won’t go into it. I obtained permission, 
if not to lie down on a bench, at least to remain standing, propped 
against the wall. The room was dark and full of people hastening 
to and fro, malefactors, policemen, lawyers, priests and journalists 
I suppose. All that made a dark, dark forms crowding in a dark 
place. They paid no attention to me and I repaid the compliment. 
Then how could I know they were paying no attention to me, 
and how could I repay the compliment, since they were paying no 
attention to me? I don’t know. I knew it and I did it, that's all I 
know. But suddenly a woman rose up before me, a big fat woman 
dressed in black, or rather in mauve. I still wonder today if it 
wasn’t the social worker. She was holding out to me, on an odd 
saucer, a mug full of a greyish concoction which must have been 
green tea with saccharine and powdered milk. Nor was that all, for 



between mug and saucer a thick slab of dry bread was precariously 
lodged, so that I began to say, in a kind of anguish. It’s going to 
fall, it’s going to fall, as if it mattered whether it fell or not. A 
moment later I myself was holding, in my trembling hands, this 
little pile of tottering disparates, in which the hard, the liquid and 
the soft were joined, without understanding how the transfer had 
been effected. Let me tell you this, when social workers offer you, 
free, gratis and for nothing, something to hinder you from swoon- 
ing, which with them is an obsessioiv it is useless to recoil, they will 
pursue you to the ends of the earth, the vomitory in their hands. 
The Salvation Army is no better. Against the charitable gesture 
there is no defence, that I know of. You sink your head, you put 
out your hands all tremblihg and twined together and you say. 
Thank you, thank you lady, thank you kind lady. To him who has 
nothing it is forbidden not to relish filth. The liquid overflowed, 
the mug rocked with a noise of chattering teeth, not mine, I had 
none, and the sodden bread sagged more and more. Until, panic- 
stricken, I flung it all far from me. f did not let it fall, no, but with 
a convulsive thrust of both my hands f threw it to the ground, 
where it smashed to smithereens, or against the wall, far from me, 
with all my strength. I will not tell what followed, for I am weary 
of this place, I want to go. It was late afternoon when they told 
me I could go. I was advised to behave better in future. Conscious 
of my wrongs, knowing now the reasons for my arrest, alive to my 
irregular situation as revealed by the enquiry, I was surprised to 
find myself so soon at freedom once again, if that is what it was, 
unpenalised. Had I, without my knowledge, a friend at court? Had 
I, without knowing it, favourably impressed the sergeant? Had they 
succeeded in finding my mother and obtaining from her, or from 
the neighbours, partial confirmation of my statements? Were they 
of the opinion that it was useless to prosecute me? To apply the 
letter of the law to a creature like me is not an easy matter. It can 
be done, but reason is against it. It is better to leave things to the 
police. I don’t know. If it is unlawful to be without papers, why 
did they not insist on my getting them. Because that costs money 
and I had none? But in tha^case could they not have appropriated 
my bicycle? Probably not, without a court order. All that is in- 



comprehensible. What is certain is this, that I never rested in that 
way again, my feet obscenely resting on the earth, my arms on the 
handlebars and on my arms my head, rocking and abandoned. It 
is indeed a deplorable sight, a deplorable example, for the people, 
who so need to be encouraged, in their bitter toil, and to have 
before their eyes manifestations of strength only, of courage and 
of joy, without which they might collapse, at the end of the day, 
and roll on the ground. I have only to be told what good behaviour 
is and I am well-behaved, within the limits of my physical possi- 
bilities. And so I have never ceased to improve, from this point 
of view, for I — I used to be intelligent and quick. And as far as 
good-will is concerned, I had it to overflowing, the exasperated 
good-will of the over-anxious. So that my repertory of permitted 
attitudes has never ceased to grow, from my first steps until my 
last, executed last year. And if I have always behaved like a pig, 
the fault lies not with me but with my superiors, who corrected 
me only on points of detail instead of showing me the essence of 
the system, after the manner of the great English schools, and the 
guiding principles of good manners, and how to proceed, without 
> going wrong, from the former to the latter, and how to trace back 
to its ultimate source a given comportment. For that would have 
allowed me, before parading in public certain habits such as the 
finger in the nose, the scratching of the balls, digital emunction and 
the peripatetic piss, to refer them to the first rules of a reasoned 
theory. On this subject I had only negative and empirical notions, 
which means that I was in the dark, most of the time, and all the more 
completely as a lifetime of observations had left me doubting the 
possibility of systematic decorum, even within a limited area. But 
it is only since 1 have ceased to live that I think of these things 
and the other things. It is in the tranquillity of decomposition that 
I remember the long confused emotion which was my life, and that 
I judge it, as it is said that God will judge me, and with no less 
impertinence. To decompose is to live too, I know, I know, don’t 
torment me, but one sometimes forgets. And of that life too I shall 
tell you perhaps one day, the day I know that when I thought I 
knew I was merely existing and that passion without form or 
stations will have devoured me down to the rotting flesh itself and 



that when I know that 1 know nothing, am only crying out as I 
have always cried out, more or less piercingly, more or less openly. 
Let me cry out then, it’s said to be good for you. Yes, let me cry 
out, this time, then another time perhaps, then perhaps a last 
time. Cry out that the declining sun fell full on the white wall 
of the barracks. It was like being in China. A confused shadow 
was cast. It was I and my bicycle. I began to play, gesticulating, 
waving my hat, moving my bicycle to and fro before me, blowing 
the horn, watching the wall. They were watching me through the 
bars, I fClt their eyes upon me. The policeman on guard at the door 
told me to go away. He needn’t have, I was calm again. The 
shadow in the end is no better than the substance. I asked the man 
to help me, to have pity on me. He didn’t understand. I thought 
of the food I had refused. I took a pebble from my pocket and 
sucked it. It was smooth, from having been sucked so long, by me, 
and beaten by the storm. A little pebble in your mouth, round and 
smooth, appeases, soothes, makes you forget your hunger, forget 
your thirst. The man came towards me, angered by my slow- 
ness. Him too they were watching, through the windows. Some- 
where someone laughed. Inside me too someone was laughing. 
I took my sick leg in my hands and passed it over the frame. I 
went. I had forgotten where I was going. I stopped to think. It is 
difficult to think riding, for me. When I try and think riding I 
lose my balance and fall. I speak in the present tense, it is so easy 
to speak in the present tense, when speaking of the past. It is the 
mythological present, don’t mind it. I was already settling in my 
raglimp stasis when I remembered it wasn’t done. I went on my 
way, that way of which I knew nothing, qua way, which was noth- 
ing more than a surface, bright or dark, smooth or rough, and 
always dear to me, in spite of all, and the dear sound of that which 
goes and is gone, with a brief dust, when the weather is dry. There 
I am then, before I knew I had left the town, on the canal-bank. 
The canal goes through the town, I know I know, there are even 
two. But then these hedges, these fields? Don’t torment yourself, 
Molloy. Suddenly I sec, it was my right leg the stiff one, then. 
Toiling towards me along the tow-path I saw a team of little grey 
donkeys, on the far bank, jyid I heard angry cries and dull blows. 
I got down, I put my foot to the ground the better to see the 



approaching barge, so gently approaching that the water was un- 
ruffled. It was a cargo of nails and timber, on its way to some car- 
penter I suppose. My eyes caught a donkey’s eyes, they fell to his 
little feet, their brave fastidious tread. The boatman rested his elbow 
on his knee, his head on his hand. He had a long white beard. 
Every three or four puffs, without taking his pipe from his mouth, 
he spat into the water. I could not see his eyes. The horizon was 
burning with sulphur and phosphorus, it was there I was bound. 
At last I got right down, hobbled down to the ditch and lay down, 
beside my bicycle. I lay at full* stretch, with outspread arms. The 
white hawthorn stooped towards me, unfortunately I don’t like the 
smell of hawthorn. In the ditch the grass was thick and high, I took 
off my hat and pressed about my face the long leafy stalks. Then 
I could smell the earth, the smell of the earth was in the grass that 
my hands wove round my face till I was blinded. I ate a little too, 
a little grass. It came back to my mind, from nowhere, as a moment 
before my name, that I had set out to see my mother, at the begin- 
ning of this ending day. My reasons? I had forgotten them. But 
I knew them, I must have known them, I had only to find them again 
and I would sweep, with the clipped wings of necessity, to my 
mother. Yes, it’s all easy when you know why, a mere matter of 
magic. Yes, the wfiole thing is to know what saint to implore, any 
fool can implore him. For the particulars, if you are interested in 
particulars, there is no need to despair, you may scrabble on the 
right door, in the right way, in the end. It’s for the whole there 
seems to be no spell. Perhaps there is no whole, before you’re dead. 
An opiate for the life of the dead, that should be easy. What am I 
waiting for then, to exorcize mine? It’s coming, it’s coming. I hear 
from here the howl resolving all, even if it is not mine. Meanwhile 
there’s no use knowing you are gone, you are not, you are writhing 
yet, the hair is growing, the nails are growing, the entrails emptying, 
all the .iiorticians are dead. Someone has drawn the blinds, you 
perhaps. Not the faintest sound. Where are the famous flies? Yes, 
there is no denying it, any longer, it is not you who are dead, 
but all the others. So you get up and go to your mother, who thinks 
she is alive. That’s my impression. But now I shall have to get 
myself out of this ditch. How joyfully f would vanish there, sinking 



deeper and deeper under the rains. No doubt I’ll come back some 
day, here, or to a similar slough, I can trust my feet for that, as no 
doubt some day I’ll meet again the sergeant and his merry men. 
And if, too changed to know it is they, I do not say it is they, 
make no mistake, it will be they, though changed. For to contrive 
a being, a place, I nearly said an hour, but I would not hurt any- 
one’s feelings, and then to use them no more, that would be, how 
shall I say, I don’t know. Not to want to say, not to know what you 
want to say, not to be able to say what you think you want to say, 
and never to stop saying, or hardly ever, that is the thing to keep 
in mind, even in the heat of composition. That night was not like 
the other night, if it had been I would have known. For when I try 
and think of that night, on the canal-bank, I find nothing, no night 
properly speaking, nothing but Molloy in the ditch, and perfect 
silence, and behind my closed lids the little night and its little 
lights, faint at first, then flaming and extinguished, now ravening, 
now fed, as fire by filth and martyrs. I say that night, but there 
was more than one perhaps. The lie, the lie, to lying thought. But 
I find the morning, a morning, and the sun already high, and the 
little sleep I had then, according to my custom, and space with its 
sounds again, and the shepherd watching me sleep and under whose 
eyes I opened my eyes. Beside him a panting dog, watching me 
too, but less closely than his master, for from time to time he 
stopped watching me to gnaw at his flesh, furiously, where the ticks 
were in him I suppose. Did he take me for a black sheep entangled 
in the brambles and was he waiting for an order from his master 
to drag me out? I don’t think so. I don't smell like a sheep, I wish 
I smelt like a sheep, or a buck-goat. When I wake I see the first 
things quite clearly, the first things that offer, and I understand 
them, when they are not too difficult. Then in my eyes and in my 
head a fine rain begins to fall, as from a rose, highly important. 
So I knew at once it was a shepherd and his dog I had before me, 
above me rather, for they had not left the path. And I identified 
the bleating too, without any trouble, the anxious bleating of the 
sheep, missing the dog at their heels. It is then too that the meaning 
of words is least obscure to me, so that I said, with tranquil assur- 
ance, Where arc you taking*thcm, to the fields or to the shambles? 



I must have completely lost my sense of direction, as if direction 
had anything to do with the matter. For even if he was going to- 
wards the town, what prevented him from skirting it, or from leav- 
ing it again by another gate, on his way to new pastures, and if he 
was going away from it that meant nothing either, for slaughter- 
houses are not confined to towns, no, they are everywhere, the 
country is full of them, every butcher has his slaughter-house and 
the right to slaughter, according to his lights. But whether it was he 
didn’t understand, or didn’t want to reply, he didn’t reply, but went 
on his way without a word, witfiout a word for me I mean, for he 
spoke to his dog who listened attentively, cocking his ears. I got 
to my knees, no, that doesn’t work, I got up and watched the little 
procession recede. I heard the shepherd whistle, and I saw him 
flourishing his crook, and the dog bustling about the herd, which 
but for him would no doubt have fallen into the canal. All that 
through a glittering dust, and soon through that mist too which rises 
in me every day and veils the world from me and veils me from 
myself. The bleating grew faint, because the sheep were less 
anxious., or because they were further away, or because my hearing 
was worse than a moment before, which would surprise me, for my 
hearing is still very good, scarcely blunted coming up to dawn, and 
if I sometimes hear nothing for hours on end it is for reasons of 
which I know nothing, or because about me all goes really silent, 
from time to time, whereas for the righteous the tumult of the 
world never stops. That then is how that second day began, unless 
it was the third, or the fourth, and it was a bad beginning, because 
it left me with persisting doubts, as to the destination of those sheep, 
among which there were lambs, and often wondering if they had 
safely reached some commonage or fallen, their skulls shattered, 
their thin legs crumpling, first to their knees, then over on their 
fleecy sides, under the pole-axe, though that is not the way they 
slaughter sheep, but with a knife, so that they bleed to death. But 
there is much to be said too for these little doubts. Good God, 
what a land of breeders, you see quadrupeds everywhere. And it’s 
not over yet, there are still horses and goats, to mention only them, 
I feel them watching out for me, to get in my path. I have no need 
of that. But I did not lose sight of my immediate goal, which was 



to get to my mother as quickly as possible, and standing in the 
ditch I summoned to my aid the good reasons I had for going 
there, without a moment’s delay. And though there were many 
things I could do without thinking, not knowing what I was going 
to do until it was done, and not even then, going to my mother 
was not one of them. My feet, you see, never took me to my mother 
unless they received a definite order to do so. The glorious, the 
truly glorious weather would have gladdened any other heart than 
mine. But I have no reason to be gladdened by the sun and I take 
good care not to be. The Aegean, 'thirsting for heat and light, him 
I killed, he killed himself, early on, in me. The pale gloom of rainy 
days was better fitted to my taste, no, that’s not it, to my humour, 
no, that’s not it either, I had-neither taste nor humour, I lost them 
early on. Perhaps what I mean is that the pale gloom, etc., hid me 
better, without its being on that account particularly pleasing to 
me. Chameleon in spite of himself, there you have Molloy, viewed 
from a certain angle. And in winter, under my greatcoat, I wrapped 
myself in swathes of newspaper, and did not shed them until the 
earth awoke, for good, in April. The Times Literary Supplement 
was admirably adapted to this purpose, of a never failing toughness 
and impermeability. Even farts made no impression on it. I can’t 
help it, gas escapes from my fundament on the least pretext, it’s 
hard not to mention it now and then, however great my distaste. 
One day I counted them. Three hundred and fifteen farts in nine- 
teen hours, or an average of over sixteen farts an hour. After all 
it’s not excessive. Four farts every fifteen minutes. It’s nothing. 
Not even one fart every four minutes. It’s unbelievable. Damn it, 
I hardly fart at all, I should never have mentioned it. Extraordinary 
how mathematics help you to know yourself. In any case this whole 
question of climate left me cold, I could stomach any mess. So I 
will only add that the mornings were often sunny, in that part of 
the world, until ten o’clock or coming up to eleven, and that then 
the sky darkened and the rain fell, fell till evening. Then the sun 
came out and went down, the drenched earth sparkled an instant, 
then went out, bereft of light. There I am then back in the saddle, 
in my numbed heart a prick of misgiving, like one dying of cancer 
obliged to consult his dentist. For I did not know if it was the right 



road. All roads were right for me, a wrong road was an event, for 
me. But when I was on my way to my mother only one road was 
right, the one that led to her, or one of those that led to her, for 
all did not lead to her. I did not know if I was on one of those right 
roads and that disturbed me, like all recall to life. Judge then of 
my relief when I saw, ahead of me, the familiar ramparts loom. I 
passed beyond them, into a district I did not know. And yet I knew 
the town well, for I was born there and had never succeeded in 
putting between it and me more than ten or fifteen miles, such was 
its grasp on me, I don’t know why. So that I came near to wonder- 
ing if I was in the right town, where I first saw the murk of day 
and which still harboured my mother, somewhere or other, or if I 
had not stumbled, as a result of a wrong turn, on a town whose very 
name I did not know. For my native town was the only one I knew, 
having never set foot in any other. But I had read with care, while 
I still could read, accounts of travellers more fortunate than myself, 
telling of other towns as beautiful as mine, and even more beautiful, 
though with a different beauty. And now it was a name I sought, 
in my memory, the name of the only town it had been given me to 
know, with the intention, as soon as I had found it, of stopping, and 
saying to a passer-by, doffing my hat, I beg your pardon. Sir, this is 
X, is it not? X being the name of my town. And this name that I 
sought, I felt sure that it began with a B or with a P, but in spite of 
this clue, or perhaps because of its falsity, the other letters continued 
to escape me. I had been living so far from words so long, you 
understand, that it was enough for me to see my town, since we’re 
talking of my town, to be unable, you understand. It’s too difficult 
to say, for me. And even my sense of identity was wrapped in a 
namelessness often hard to penetrate, as we have just seen I think. 
And so on for all the other things which made merry with my senses. 
Yes, even then, when already all was fading, waves and particles, 
there could be no things but nameless things, no names but thing- 
less names. I say that now, but after all what do I know now about 
then, now when the icy words hail down upon me, the icy meanings, 
and the world dies too, foully named. All I know is what the words 
know, and the dead things, and that makes a handsome little sum, 
with a beginning, a middle and an end*as in the well-built phrase 



and the long sonata of the dead. And truly it little matters what I 
say, this or that or any other thing. Saying is inventing. Wrong, 
very rightly wrong. You invent nothing, you think you are invent- 
ing, you think you are escaping, and all you do is stammer out your 
lesson, the remnants of a pensum one day got by heart and long 
forgotten, life without tears, as it is wept. To hell with it anyway. 
Where was I. Unable to remember the name of my town I resolved 
to stop by the kerb, to wait for a passer-by with a friendly and 
intelligent air and then to whip off my hat and say, with my smile, 
I beg your pardon Sir, excuse me Sir, what is the name of this town, 
if you please? For the word once let fall I would know if it was 
the right word, the one I was seeking, in my memory, or another, 
and so where I stood. This resolution, actually formed as I rode 
along, was never to be carried out, an absurd mishap prevented it. 
Yes, my resolutions were remarkable in this, that they were no 
sooner formed than something always happened to prevent their 
execution. That must be why I am even less resolute now than then, 
just as then I was even less so than I once had been. But to tell 
the truth (to tell the truth ! ) I have never been particularly resolute, 
I mean given to resolutions, but rather inclined to plunge headlong, 
into the shit, without knowing who was shitting against whom or 
on which side 1 had the better chance of skulking with success. 
But from this leaning too I derived scant satisfaction and if I have 
never quite got rid of it it is not for want of trying. The fact is, it 
seems, that the most you can hope is to be a little less, in the end, 
the creature you were in the beginning, and the middle. For I had 
hardly perfected my plan, in my head, when my bicycle ran over 
a dog, as subsequently appeared, and fell to the ground, an inept- 
ness all the more unpardonable as the dog, duly leashed, was not 
out on the road, but in on the pavement, docile at its mistress’s 
heels. Precautions are like resolutions, to be taken with precaution. 
The lady must have thought she had left nothing to chance, so far 
as the safety of her dog was concerned, whereas in reality she was 
setting the whole system of nature at naught, no less surely than I 
myself with my insane demands for more light. But instead of 
grovelling in my turn, invoking my great age and infirmities, I 
made things worse by trying to run away. I was soon overtaken. 



by a bloodthirsty mob of both sexes and all ages, for I caught a 
glimpse of white beards and little, almost angel faces, and they 
were preparing to tear me to pieces when the lady intervened. She 
said in effect, she told me so later on and I believed her. Leave 
this poor old man alone. He has killed Teddy, I grant you that, 
Teddy whom I loved like my own child, but it is not so serious as 
it seems, for as it happens I was taking him to the veterinary sur- 
geon, to have him put out of his misery. For Teddy was old, blind, 
deaf, crippled with rheumatism and perpetually incontinent, night 
and day, indoors and out of dtfors. Thanks then to this poor old 
man I have been spared a painful task, not to mention the expense 
which I am ill able to afford, having no other means of support 
than the pension of my dear departed, fallen in defence of a country 
that called itself his and from which in his lifetime he never derived 
the smallest benefit, but only insults and vexations. The crowd was 
beginning to disperse, the danger was past, but the lady was in her 
stride. You may say, she said, that he did wrong to run away, that 
he should have explained, asked to be forgiven. Granted. But it is 
clear he has not all his wits about him, that he is beside himself, 
for reasons of which we know nothing and which might put us all 
to shame, if we did know them. I even wonder if he knows what he 
has done. There emanated such tedium from this droning voice 
that I was making ready to move on when the unavoidable police 
constable rose up before me. He brought down heavily on my 
handle-bars his big red hairy paw, I noticed it myself, and had it 
appears with the lady the following conversation. Is this the man 
who ran over your dog. Madam? He is, sergeant, and what of it? 
No, I can’t record this fatuous colloquy. So I will merely observe 
that finally in his turn the constable too dispersed, the word is not 
too strong, grumbling and growling, followed by the last idlers who 
had given up all hope of my coming to a bad end. But he turned back 
and said. Remove that dog. Free at last to go I began to do so. But 
the lady, a Mrs. Loy, I might as well say it now and be done with it, 
or Lousse, I forget, Christian name something like Sophie, held me 
back, by the tail of my coat, and said, assuming the words were 
the same when I heard them as when first spoken. Sir, I need you. 
And seeing I suppose from my expressiftn, which frequently betrays 



me, that she had made herself understood, she must have said. If 
he understands that he can understand anything. And she was not 
mistaken, for after some time I found myself in possession of certain 
ideas or points of view which could only have come to me from 
her, namely that having killed her dog I was morally obliged to 
help her carry it home and bury it, that she did not wish to prose- 
cute me for what I had done, but that it was not always possible 
to do as one did not wish, that she found me likeable enough in 
spite of my hideous appearance and would be happy to hold out 
to me a helping hand, and so on,’ I’ve forgotten the half of it. Ah 
yes, I too needed her, it seemed. She needed me to help her get rid 
of her dog, and I needed her. I’ve forgotten for what. She must 
have told me, for that was an insinuation I could not decently pass 
over in silence as I had the rest, and I made no bones about telling 
her I needed neither her nor anyone else, which was perhaps a 
slight exaggeration, for I must have needed my mother, otherwise 
why this frenzy of wanting to get to her? That is one of the many 
reasons why I avoid speaking as much as possible. For I always 
say either too much or too little, which is a terrible thing for a man 
with a passion for truth like mine. And I shall not abandon this 
subject, to which I shall probably never have occasion to return, 
with such a storm blowing up, without making this curious obser- 
vation, that it often happened to me, before I gave up speaking for 
good, to think I had said too little when in fact I had said too 
much and in fact to have said too little when I thought 
I had said too much. I mean that on reflection, in the long run 
rather, my verbal profusion turned out to be penury, and inversely. 
So time sometimes turns the tables. In other words, or perhaps 
another thing, whatever I said it was never enough and always too 
much. Yes, I was never silent, whatever I said I was never silent. 
Divine analysis that conduces thus to knowledge of yourself, and 
of your fellow-men, if you happen to have any. For to say I needed 
no one was not to say too much, but an infinitesimal part of what 
I should have said, could not have said, should never have said. 
Need of my mother ! No, there were no words tar the want of need 
in which I was perishing. So that she, I mean Sophie, must have 
told me the reasons why I rfbeded her, since I had dared to disagree. 



And perhaps if I took the trouble I might find them again, but 
trouble, many thanks, some other time. And now enough of this 
boulevard, it must have been a boulevard, of all these righteous 
ones, these guardians of the peace, all these feet and hands, stamp- 
ing, clutching, clenched in vain, these bawling mouths that never 
bawl out of season, this sky beginning to drip, enough of being 
abroad, trapped, visible. Someone was poking the dog, with a 
malacca. The dog was uniformly yellow, a mongrel I suppose, or a 
pedigree, I can never tell the difference. His death must have hurt 
him less than my fall me. And he at least was dead. We slung him 
across the saddle and set off like an army in retreat, helping each 
other I suppose, to keep the corpse from falling, to keep the bicycle 
moving, to keep ourselves moving, through the jeering crowd. The 
house where Sophie — no, I can’t call her that any more. I’ll try 
calling her Lousse, without the Mrs. — the house where Lousse lived 
•was not far away. Oh it was not nearby either, I had my bellyful 
by the time I got there. That is to say I didn’t have it really. You 
think you have your bellyful but you seldom have it really. It was 
because I knew I was there that I had my bellyful, a mile more to 
%o and I would only have had my bellyful an hour later. Human 
nature. Marvellous thing. The house where Lousse lived. Must I 
describe it? I don’t think so. I won’t, that’s all I know, for the 
moment. Perhaps later on, if I get to know it. And Lousse? Must 
I describe her? I suppose so. Let’s first bury the dog. It was she 
dug the hole, under a tree. You always bury your dog under a tree, 
I don't know why. But I have my suspicions. It was she dug the 
hole because I couldn’t, though I was the gentleman, because 
of my leg. That is to say I could have dug with a trowel, but 
not with a spade. For when you dig a grave one leg supports 
the weight of the body while the other, flexing and unflexing, drives 
the spade Into the earth. Now my sick leg, I forget which, it’s 
immaterial here, was in a condition neither to dig, because it was 
rigid, nor alone to support me, because it would have collapsed. I 
had so to speak only one leg at my disposal, I was virtually one- 
legged, and I would have been happier, livelier, amputated at the 
groin. And if they had removed a few tgsticles into the bargain I 
wouldn’t have objected. For from such testicles as mine, dangling 



at mid-thigh at the end of a meagre cord, there was nothing more 
to be squeezed, not a drop. So that non che la speme il desiderio, 
and I longed to see them gone, from the old stand where they bore 
false witness, for and against, in the lifelong charge against me. 
For if they accused me of having made a balls of it, of me, of them, 
they thanked me for it too, from the depths of their rotten bag, the 
right lower than the left, or inversely, I forget, decaying circus 
clowns. And, worse still, they got in my way when I tried to walk, 
when I tried to sit down, as if my $ick leg was not enough, and when 
I rode my bicycle they bounced up and down. So the best thing for 
me would have been for them to go, and I would have seen to it 
myself, with a knife or secateurs, but for my terror of physical pain 
and festered wounds, so that I shook. Yes, all my life I have gone 
in terror of festered wounds, I who never festered, I was so acid. 
My life, my life, now I speak of it as of something over, now as of 
a joke which still goes on, and it is neither, for at the same time 
it is over and it goes on, and is there any tense for that? Watch 
wound and buried by the watchmaker, before he died, whose ruined 
works will one day speak of God, to the worms. But those cullions, 
I must be attached to them after all, cherish them as others del 
their scars, or the family album. In any case it wasn’t their fault 
I couldn’t dig, but my leg’s. It was Loussc dug the hole while I 
held the dog in my arms. He was heavy already and cold, but he 
had not yet begun to stink. He smelt bad, if you like, but bad like 
an old dog, not like a dead dog. He too had dug holes, perhaps at 
this very spot. We buried him as he was, no box or wrapping of 
any kind, like a Carthusian monk, but with his collar and lead. 
It was she put him in the hole, though I was the gentleman. For 
I cannot stoop, neither can I kneel, because of my infirmity, and 
if ever I stoop, forgetting who I am, or kneel, make no mistake, 
it will not be me, but another. To throw him in the hole was all 
I could have done, and I would have done it gladly. And yet I 
did not do it. All the things you would do gladly, oh without en- 
thusiasm, but gladly, all the things there seems no reason for your 
not doing, and that you do not do ! Can it be we are not free? It 
might be worth looking iqto. But what was my contribution to this 
burial? It was she dug the hole, put in the dog, filled up the hole. 



On the whole I was a mere spectator, I contributed my presence. 
As if it had been my own burial. And it was. It was a larch tree. It is 
the only tree I can identify, with certainty. Funny she should have 
chosen, to bury her dog beneath, the only tree I can identify, with 
certainty. The sea-green needles are like silk and speckled, it 
always seemed to me, with little red, how shall I say, with little 
red specks. The dog had ticks in his ears, I have an eye for such 
things, they were buried with him. When she had finished her grave 
she handed me the spade and hpgan to muse, or brood. I thought 
she was going to cry, it was the thing to do, but on the contrary 
she laughed. It was perhaps her way of crying. Or perhaps I was 
mistaken and she was really crying, with the noise of laughter. 
Tears and laughter, they are so much Gaelic to me. She would see 
him no more, her Teddy she had loved like an only child. I wonder 
why, since she had obviously made up her mind to bury the dog 
at home, she had not asked the vet to call and destroy the brute 
on the premises. Was she really on her way to the vet at the moment 
her path crossed mine? Or had she said so solely in order to attenu- 
ate my guilt? Private calls are naturally more expensive. She 
ushered me into the drawing-room and gave me food and drink, 
good things without a doubt. Unfortunately I didn’t much care 
for good things to eat. But I quite liked getting drunk. If she lived 
in embarrassed circumstances there was no sign of it. That kind 
of embarrassment 1 feel at once. Seeing how painful the sitting 
posture was for me she fetched a chair for my stiff leg. Without 
ceasing to ply me with delicacies she kept up a chatter of which 
I did not understand the hundredth part. With her own hand she 
took off my hat. and carried it away, to hang it up somewhere, 
on a hat-rack I suppose, and seemed surprised when the lace pulled 
her up in her stride. She had a parrot, very pretty, all the most 
approved colours. I understood him better than his mistress. I don’t 
mean I understood him better than she understood him, I mean I 
understood him better than I understood her. He exclaimed from 
time to time. Fuck the son of a bitch, fuck the son of a bitch. He 
must have belonged to an American sailor, before he belonged to 
Lousse. Pets often change masters. He ^didn’t say much else. No, 
I’m wrong, he also said, Putain de merde! He must have belonged 



to a French sailor before he belonged to the American sailor. 
Putain de merde ! Unless he had hit on it alone, it wouldn’t surprise 
me. Lousse tried to make him say. Pretty Polly ! I think it was too 
late. He listened, his head on one side, pondered, then said. Fuck 
the son of a bitch. It was clear he was doing his best. Him too one 
day she would bury. In his cage probably. Me too, if I had stayed, 
she would have buried. If I had her address I’d write to her, to come 
and bury me. I fell asleep. I woke up in a bed, in my skin. They 
had carried their impertinence to the point of washing me, to judge 
by the "smell I gave off, no longer gave off. I went to the door. 
Locked. To the window. Barred. It was not yet quite dark. What 
is there left to try when you have tried the door and the window? 
The chimney perhaps. I looked for my clothes. I found a light 
switch and switched it on. No result. What a story ! All that left 
me cold, or nearly. I found my crutches, against an easy chair. It 
may seem strange that I was able to go through the motions I have 
described without their help. I find it strange. You don’t remember 
immediately who you are, when you wake. On a chair I found a 
white chamber pot with a roll of toilet-paper in it. Nothing was 
being left to chance. I recount these moments with a certain minute- 
ness, it is a relief from what I feel coming. I set a pouffe against 
the easy chair, sat down in the latter, and on the former laid my 
stiff leg. The room was chock-full of pouffes and easy chairs, they 
thronged all about me, in the gloom. There were also occasional 
tables, footstools, tallboys, etc., in abundance. Strange feeling of 
congestion that the night dispersed, though it lit the chandelier, 
which I had left turned on. My beard was missing, when I felt for 
it with anguished hand. They had shaved me, they had shorn me of 
my scant beard. How had my sleep withstood such liberties? My 
sleep as a rule so uneasy. To this question I found a number of 
replies. But I did not know which of them was right. Perhaps 
they were all wrong. My beard grows properly only on my chin 
and dewlap. Where the pretty bristles grow on other faces, on mine 
there arc none. But such as it was they had docked my beard. 
Perhaps they had dyed it too, I had no proof they had not. I thought 
I was naked, in the easy cjjair, but I finally realised I was wearing 
a nightdress, very flimsy. If they had come and told me I was to 



be sacrificed at sunrise I would not have been taken aback. How 
foolish one can be. It seemed to me too that I had been perfumed, 
lavender perhaps. I said. If only your poor mother could see you 
now. I am no enemy of the commonplace. She seemed far away, 
my mother, far away from me, and yet I was a little closer to her 
than the night before, if my reckoning was accurate. But was it? 
If I was in the right town, I had made progress. But was I? If on 
the other hand I was in the wrong town, from which my mother 
would necessarily be absent, then I had lost ground. I must have 
fallen asleep, for all of a sudden there was the moon, a huge moon 
framed in the window. Two bars divided it in three segments, of 
which the middle remained constant, while little by little the right 
gained what the left lost. For the moon was moving from left to 
right, or the room was moving from right to left, or both together 
perhaps, or both were moving from left to right, but the room not 
so fast as the moon, or from right to left, but the moon not so fast 
as the room. But can one speak of right and left in such circum- 
stances? That movements of an extreme complexity were taking 
place seemed certain, and yet what a simple thing it seemed, that 
*vast yellow light sailing slowly behind my bars and which little 
by little the dense wall devoured, and finally eclipsed. And now its 
tranquil course was written on the walls, a radiance scored with 
shadow, then a brief quivering of leaves, if they were leaves, then 
that too went out, leaving me in the dark. How difficult it is to speak 
of the moon and not lose one’s head, the witless moon. It must be 
her arse she shows us always. Yes, I once took an interest in astron- 
omy, I don’t deny it. Then it was geology that killed a few years 
for me. The next pain in the balls was anthropology and the other 
disciplines, such as psychiatry, that are connected with it, discon- 
nected, then connected again, according to the latest discoveries. 
What I liked in anthropology was its inexhaustible faculty of 
negation, its relentless definition of man, as though he were no 
better ! han God, in terms of what he is not. But my ideas on this 
subject were always horribly confused, for my knowledge of men 
was scant and the meaning of being beyond me. Oh I’ve tried 
everything. In the end it was magic that had the honour of my ruins, 
and still today, when I walk there, I find its vestiges. But mostly 



they are a place with neither plan nor bounds and of which I under* 
stand nothing, not even of what it is made, still less into what. And 
the thing in ruins, I don’t know what it is, what it was, nor whether 
it is not less a question of ruins than the indestructible chaos of 
timeless things, if that is the right expression. It is in any case a 
place devoid of mystery, deserted by magic, because devoid of 
mystery. And if I do not go there gladly, I go perhaps more gladly 
there than anywhere else, astonished and at peace, I nearly said 
as in a dream, but no, no. But it is not the kind of place where you 
go, but where you find yourself, sometimes, not knowing how, and 
which you cannot leave at will, and where you find yourself without 
any pleasure, but with more perhaps than in those places you can 
escape from, by making 'an effort, places full of mystery, full of 
the familiar mysteries. I listen and the voice is of a world collapsing 
endlessly, a frozen world, under a faint untroubled sky, enough to 
see by, yes, and frozen too. And I hear it murmur that all wilts 
and yields, as if loaded down, but here there are no loads, and the 
ground too, unfit for loads, and the light too, down towards an 
end it seems can never come. For what possible end to these wastes 
where true light never was, nor any upright thing, nor any trufe 
foundation, but only these leaning things, forever lapsing and 
crumbling away, beneath a sky without memory of morning or hope 
of night. These things, what things, come from where, made of 
what? And it says that here nothing stirs, has never stirred, will 
never stir, except myself, who do not stir either, when I am there, 
but see and am seen. Yes, a world at an end, in spite of appearances, 
its end brought it forth, ending it began, is it clear enough? And I 
too am at an end, when I am there, my eyes close, my sufferings 
cease and I end, I wither as the living can not. And if I went on 
listening to that far whisper, silent long since and which I still 
hear, I would learn still more, about this. But I will listen no longer, 
for the time being, to that far whisper, for I do not like it, I fear it. 
But it is not a sound like the other sounds, that you listen to, 
when you choose, and can sometimes silence, by going away or 
stopping your ears, no, but it is a sound which begins to rustle in 
your head, without your«knowing how, or why. It’s with your head 
you hear it, not your ears, you can’t stop it. but it stops itself, when 



it chooses. It makes no difference therefore whether I listen to it 
or not I shall hear it always, no thunder can deliver me, until it 
stops. But nothing compels me to speak of it, when it doesn’t suit 
me. And it doesn’t suit me, at the moment. No, what suits me, at 
the moment, is to be done with this business of the moon which 
was left unfinished, by me, for me. And if I get done with it less 
successfully than if I had all my wits about me, I shall none the less 
get done with it, as best I can, at least I think so. That moon then, 
all things considered, filled me suddenly with amaze, with surprise, 
perhaps better. Yes, I was considering it, after my fashion, with 
indifference, seeing it again, in a way, in my head, when a great 
fright came suddenly upon me. And deeming this deserved to be 
looked into I looked into it and quickly made the following dis- 
covery, among others, but I confined myself to the following, that 
this moon which had just sailed gallant and full past my window 
had appeared to me the night before, or the night before that, yes, 
more likely, all young and slender, on her back, a shaving. And 
then I had said. Now I see, he has waited for the new moon before 
launching forth on unknown ways, leading south. And then a little 
later. Perhaps I should go to mother tomorrow. For all things hang 
together, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, as the saying is. And 
if I failed to mention this detail in its proper place, it is because you 
cannot mention everything in its proper place, you must choose, 
between the things not worth mentioning and those even less so. 
For if you set out to mention everything you would never be done, 
and that’s what counts, to be done, to have done. Oh I know, even 
when you mention only a few of the things there are, you do not 
get done either, I know, I know. But it’s a change of muck. And 
if all muck is the same muck that doesn’t matter, it’s good to have 
a change of muck, to move from one heap to another a little further 
on, from, time to time, fluttering you might say, like a butterfly, 
as if you were ephemeral. And if you are wrong, and you are wrong, 
I mean when you record circumstances better left unspoken, and 
leave unspoken others, rightly, if you like, but how shall I Say, for 
no good reason, yes, rightly, but for no good reason, as for example 
that new moon, it is often in good faith* excellent faith. Had there 
then elapsed, between that night on the mountain, that night when 



I saw A and C and then made up my mind to go and see my mother, 
and this other night, more time than I had thought, namely fourteen 
full days, or nearly? And if so, what had happened to those fourteen 
days, or nearly, and where had they flown? And what possible 
chance was there of finding a place for them, no matter what their 
burden, in the so rigorous chain of events I had just undergone? 
Was it not wiser to suppose either that the moon seen two 
nights before, far from being new as I had thought, was on the 
eve of being full, or else that, the moon seen from Lousse’s 
house, far from being full, as it had appeared to me, was in fact 
merely entering on its first quarter, or else finally that here I had 
to do with two moons, as far from the new as from the full and so 
alike in outline that the nalced eye could hardly tell between them, 
and that whatever was at variance with these hypotheses was so 
much smoke and delusion. It was at all events with the aid of 
these considerations that I grew calm again and was restored, in 
the face of nature’s pranks, to my old ataraxy, for what it was 
worth. And it came back also to my mind, as sleep stole over it 
again, that my nights were moonless and the moon foreign, to my 
nights, so that I had never seen, drifting past the window, carrying 1 
me back to other nights, other moons, this moon I had just seen, 
I had forgotten who I was (excusably) and spoken of myself as I 
would have of another, if I had been compelled to speak of another. 
Yes it sometimes happens and will sometimes happen again that I 
forget who I am and strut before my eyes, like a stranger. Then I 
see the sky different from what it is and the earth too takes on false 
colours. It looks like rest, it is not, I vanish happy in that alien 
light, which must have once been mine, I am willing to believe it, 
then the anguish of return, I won’t say where, I can’t, to absence 
perhaps, you must return, that’s all I know, it’s misery to stay, 
misery to go. The next day I demanded my clothes. The valet went 
to find out. He came back with the news they had been burnt. I 
continued my inspection of the room. It was at first sight a perfect 
cube. Through the lofty window I saw boughs. They rocked gently, 
but not all the time, shaken now and then by sudden spasms. I 
noticed the chandelier wa& burning. My clothes, I said, my crutches, 
forgetting my crutches were there, against the chair. He left me 



alone again, leaving the door open. Through the door I saw a big 
window, bigger than the door which it overlapped entirely, and 
opaque. The valet came back with the news my clothes had been 
sent to the dyers, to have the shine taken off. He held my crutches, 
which should have seemed strange to me, but seemed natural to 
me, on the contrary. I took hold of one and began to strike the 
pieces of furniture with it, not very hard, just hard enough to over- 
turn them, without breaking them. They were fewer than in the 
night. To tell the truth I pushed them rather than struck them, I 
thrust at them, I lunged, and that is not pushing either, but it’s 
more like pushing than striking. But recalling who I was I soon 
threw away my crutch and came to a standstill in the middle of the 
room, determined to stop asking for things, to stop pretending to 
be angry. For to want my clothes, and I thought I wanted them, 
was no reason for pretending to be angry, when they were refused. 
And alone once more I resumed my inspection of the room and 
was on the point of endowing it with other properties when the 
valet came back with the news my clothes had been sent for and 
I would have them soon. Then he began to straighten the tables 
'and chairs I had overturned and to put them back into place, 
dusting them as he did so with a feather duster which suddenly 
appeared in his hand. And so I began to help him as best I could, 
by way of proving that I bore no grudge against anyone. And 
though I could not do much, because of my stiff leg, yet I did what 
I could, that is to say I took each object as he straightened it 
and proceeded with excruciating meticulousncss to restore it to its 
proper place, stepping back with raised arms the better to assess 
the result and then springing forward to effect minute improve- 
ments. And with the tail of my nightdress as with a duster I 
petulantly flicked them one by one. But of this little game too I 
soon wearied and suddenly stood stock still in the middle of the 
room. But seeing him ready to go I took a step forward and said. 
My bicycle. And I said it again, and again, the same words, until 
he appeared to understand. I don’t know to what race he belonged, 
he was so tiny and ageless, assuredly not to mine. He was an 
oriental perhaps, a vague oriental, a child of the Rising Sun. He 
wore white trousers, a white shirt and a yellow waistcoat, like a 



chamois he was, with brass buttons and sandals. It is not often that 
I take cognisance so clearly of the clothes that people wear and I 
am happy to give you the benefit of it. The reason for that was 
perhaps this, that all morning the talk had been of clothes, of mine. 
And perhaps I had been saying, to myself, words to this effect. 
Look at him, peaceful in his own clothes, and look at me, floating 
about inside another man’s nightdress, another woman's probably, 
for it was pink and transparent and adorned with ribands and frills 
and lape. Whereas the room, I saw the room but darkly, at each 
fresh inspection it seemed changed, and that is known as seeing 
darkly, in the present state of our knowledge. The boughs them- 
selves seemed to shift, as though endowed with an orbital velocity 
of their own, and in the big frosted window the door was no longer 
inscribed, but had slightly shifted to the right, or to the left, I 
forget, so that there now appeared within its frame a panel of white 
wall, on which I succeeded in casting faint shadows when I moved. 
But that there were natural causes to all these things I am willing 
to concede, for the resources of nature are infinite apparently. It 
was I who was not natural enough to enter into that order of things, 
and appreciate its niceties. But I was used to seeing the sun rise in 
the south, used to not knowing where I was going, what I was 
leaving, what was going with me, all things turning and twisting 
confusedly about me. It is difficult, is it not, to go to one’s mother 
with things in such a state, more difficult than to the Lousses of 
this world, or to its police-stations, or to the other places that are 
waiting for me, I know. But the valet having brought my clothes, 
in a paper which he unwrapped in front of me, I saw that my hat 
was not among them, so that I said. My hat. And when he finally 
understood what I wanted he went away and came back a little 
later with my hat. Nothing was missing then except the lace to 
fasten my hat to my buttonhole, but that was something I could 
not hope to make him understand, and so I did not mention it. 
An old lace, you can always find an old lace, no lace lasts for ever, 
the way clothes do, real clothes. As for the bicycle, I had hopes 
that it was waiting for me somewhere below stairs, perhaps even 
before the front door, ready to carry me away from these horrible 
scenes. And I did not sec what good it would do to ask for it again. 



to submit him and myself to this fresh ordeal, when it could be 
avoided. These considerations crossed my mind with a certain 
rapidity. Now with regard to the pockets, four in all, of my clothes, 

I verified their contents in front of the valet and discovered that 
certain things were missing. My sucking-stone in particular was no 
longer there. But sucking-stones abound on our beaches, when you 
know where to look for them, and I deemed it wiser to say nothing 
about it, all the more so as he would have been capable, after an 
hour’s argument, of going and fetching me from the garden a com- 
pletely unsuckable stone. This was a decision too which I took 
almost instantaneously. But of the other objects which had dis- 
appeared why speak, since I did not know exactly what they were. 
And perhaps they had been taken from me at the police-station, 
without my knowing it, or scattered and lost, when I fell, or at some 
other time, or thrown away, for I would sometimes throw away 
all I had about me, in a burst of irritation. So why speak of them? 
I resolved nevertheless to declare loudly that a knife was missing, 
a noble knife, and I did so to such effect that I soon received a 
very fine vegetable knife, so-called stainless, but it didn’t take me 
long to stain it, and which opened and shut into the bargain, unlike 
all the vegetable knives I had ever known, and which had a safety 
catch, highly dangerous as soon appeared and the cause of innum- 
erable cuts, all over my fingers caught between the handle of so- 
called genuine Irish horn and the blade red with rust and so blunted 
that it was less a matter of cuts than of contusions. And if I deal 
at such length with this knife it is because I have it somewhere 
still I think, among my possessions, and because having dealt with 
it here at such length I shall not have to deal with it again, when 
the moment comes, if it ever comes, to draw up the list of my pos- 
sessions, and that will be a relief, a welcome relief, when that 
moment, comes, I know. For it is natural I should dilate at lesser 
lengtii on what I lost than on what I could not lose, that goes 
without saying. And if I do not always appear to observe this 
principle it is because it escapes me. from time to time, and 
vanishes, as utterly as if I had never educed it. Mad words, no 
matter. For I no longer know what I»am doing, nor why, those 
are things I understand less and less, I don’t deny it, for why deny 



it, and to whom, to you, to whom nothing is denied? And then 
doing fills me with such a, I don’t know, impossible to express, 
for me, now, after so long, yes, that I don’t stop to enquire in 
virtue of what principle. And all the less so as whatever I do, that 
is to say whatever I say, it will always as it were be the same thing, 
yes, as it were. And if I speak of principles, when there are none, 
I can’t help it, there must be some somewhere. And if always doing 
the same thing as it were is not the same as observing the same 
principle. . I can’t help it either. 'And then how can you know 
whether you are observing it or not? And how can you want to 
know? No, all that is not worth while, not worth while bothering 
about, and yet you do bother about it, your sense of values gone. 
And the things that are worth while you do not bother about, you 
let them be, for the same reason, or wisely, knowing that all these 
questions of worth and value have nothing to do with you, who 
don’t know what you’re doing, nor why, and must go on not know- 
ing it, on pain of, I wonder what, yes, I wonder. For anything 
worse than what I do, without knowing what, or yhy, I have never 
been able to conceive, and that doesn’t surprise me, for I never 
tried. For had I been able to conceive something worse than what 
I had I would have known no peace until I got it, if I know any- 
thing about myself. And what I have, what I am, is enough, was 
always enough for me, and as far as my dear little sweet little 
future is concerned I have no qualms, I have a good time coming. 
So I put on my clothes, having first made sure they had not been 
tampered with, that is to say I put on my trousers, my greatcoat, 
my hat, and my boots. My boots. They came up to where my calves 
would have been if I had had calves, and partly they buttoned, or 
would have buttoned, if they had had buttons, and partly they 
laced, and I have them still, I think, somewhere. Then I took my 
crutches and left the room. The whole day had gone in this tom- 
foolery and it was dusk again. Going down the stairs I inspected 
the window I had seen through the door. It lit the staircase with 
its wild tawny light. Lousse was in the garden, fussing around the 
grave. She was sowing grass on it, as if grass wouldn’t have sown 
itself on it. She was taking‘advantage of the cool of evening. Seeing 
me, she came warmly towards me and gave me food and drink. 



I ate and drank standing, casting about me in search of my bicycle. 
She talked and talked. Soon sated, I began the search for my 
bicycle. She followed me. In the end I found it, half buried in a 
soft bush. I threw aside my crutches and took it in my hands, by 
the saddle and the handle-bars, intending to wheel it a little, back 
and forth, before getting on and leaving for ever this accursed 
place. But I pushed and pulled in vain, the wheels would not turn. 
It was as though the brakes were jammed, and heaven knows they 
were not, for my bicycle had ng brakes. And suddenly overcome 
by a great weariness, in spite of the dying day when I always felt 
most alive, I threw the bicycle back in the bush and lay down on 
the ground, on the grass, careless of the dew, I never feared the 
dew. It was then that Lousse, taking advantage of my weakness, 
squatted down beside me and began to make me propositions, to 
which I must confess I listened, absent-mindedly, I had nothing 
• else to do, I could do nothing else, and doubtless she had poisoned 
my beer with something intended to mollify me, to mollify Molloy, 
with the result that I was nothing more than a lump of melting 
wax, so to speak. And from these propositions, which she enun- 
ciated slowly and distinctly, repeating each clause several times, 
I finally elicited the following, or gist. I could not prevent her 
having a weakness for me, neither could she. I would live in her 
home, as though it were my own. I would have plenty to eat and 
drink, to smoke too if I smoked, for nothing, and my remaining 
days would glide away without a care. I would as it were take the 
place of the dog I had killed, as it for her had taken the place of 
a child. I would help in the garden, in the house, when I wished, 
if I wished. I would not go out on the street, for once out I would 
never find my way in again. I would adopt the rhythm of life which 
best suited me, getting up, going to bed and taking my meals at 
whatsoever hours I pleased. If I did not choose to be clean, to wear 
nice clones, to wash and so on, I need not. She would be grieved, 
but what was her grief, compared to my grief? All she asked was 
to feel me near her, with her, and the right to contemplate from 
time to time this extraordinary body both at rest and in motion. 
Every now and then I interrupted her, tp ask what town I was in. 
But either because she did not understand me, or because she pre- 



ferred to leave me in ignorance, she did not reply to my question, 
but went on with her soliloquy, reiterating tirelessly each new propo- 
sition, then expounding further, slowly, gently, the benefits for 
both of us if I would make my home with her. Till nothing was 
left but this monotonous voice, in the deepening night and the smell 
of the damp earth and of a strongly scented flower which at the 
time I could not identify, but which later I identified as spike- 
lavender. There were beds of it everywhere, in this garden, for 
Lousse loved spike, she must have told me herself, otherwise I 
would not have known, she loved it above all other herbs and 
flowers, because of its smell, and then also because of its spikes, 
and its colour. And if I had not lost my sense of smell the smell 
of lavender would always make me think of Lousse, in accordance 
with the well-known mechanism of association. And she gathered 
this lavender when it bloomed I presume, left it to dry and then 
made it up into lavender-bags that she put in her cupboards to 
perfume her handkerchiefs, her underclothing and house-linen. But 
none the less from time to time I heard the chiming of the hours, 
from the clocks and belfries, chiming out longer and longer, then 
suddenly briefly, then longer and longer again. This will give some ' 
idea of the time she took to cozen me, of her patience and physical 
endurance, for all the time she was squatting or kneeling beside 
me, whereas I was stretched out at my ease on the grass, now on 
my back, now on my stomach, now on one side, now on the other. 
And all the time she never stopped talking, whereas I only opened 
my mouth to ask, at long intervals, more and more feebly, what 
town we were in. And sure of her victory at last, or simply feeling 
she had done all she could and that further insistence was useless, 
she got up and went away, I don’t know where, for I stayed where 
I was, with regret, mild regret. For in me there have always been 
two fools, among others, one asking nothing better than to stay 
where he is and the other imagining that life might be slightly less 
horrible a little further on. So that I was never disappointed, so to 
speak, whatever 1 did, in this domain. And these inseparable fools 
I indulged turn about, that they might understand their foolishness. 
And that night there was no question of moon, nor any other light, 
but it was a night of listening, a night given to the faint soughing 



and sighing stirring at night in little pleasure gardens, the shy 
sabbath of leaves and petals and the air that eddies there as it does 
not in other places, where there is less constraint, and as it does 
not during the day, when there is more vigilance, and then some- 
thing else that is not clear, being neither the air nor what it moves, 
perhaps the far unchanging noise the earth makes and which other 
noises cover, but not for long. For they do not account for that 
noise you hear when you really listen, when all seems hushed. And 
there was another noise, that of my life become the life of this 
garden as it rode the earth of deeps and wildernesses. Yes, there 
were times when I forgot not only who I was, but that I was, 
forgot to be. Then I was no longer that sealed jar to which I owed 
my being so well preserved, but a wall gave way and I filled with 
roots and tame stems for example, stakes long since dead and 
ready for burning, the recess of night and the imminence of dawn, 
and then the labour of the planet rolling eager into winter, winter 
would rid it of these contemptible scabs. Or of that winter I was 
the precarious calm, the thaw of the snows which make no differ- 
ence and all the horrors of it all all over again. But that did not 
happen to me often, mostly I stayed in my jar which knew neither 
seasons nor gardens. And a good thing too. But in there you have 
to be careful, ask yourself questions, as for example whether you 
still are, and if no when it stopped, and if yes how long it will still go 
on, anything at all to keep you from losing the thread of the dream. 
For my part I willingly asked myself questions, one after the other, 
just for the sake of looking at them. No, not willingly, wisely, so 
that I might believe I was still there And yet it meant nothing to 
me to be still there. I called that thinking. I thought almost without 
stopping, I did not dare stop. Perhaps that was the cause of my 
innocence. It was a little the worse for wear, a little threadbare 
perhaps, but I was glad to have it, yes, I suppose. Thanks I suppose, 
as the urchin said when I picked up his marble, I don’t know why, 
I didn’t have to, and I suppose he would have preferred to pick it 
up himself. Or perhaps it wasn’t to be picked up. And the effort 
it cost me, with my stiff leg. The words engraved themselves for 
ever on my memory, perhaps because V understood them at once, 
a thing I didn’t often do. Not that I was hard of hearing, for I had 



quite a sensitive ear, and sounds unencumbered with precise mean- 
ing were registered perhaps better by me than by most. What was 
it then? A defect of the understanding perhaps, which only began 
to vibrate on repeated solicitations, or which did vibrate, if you like, 
but at a lower frequency, or a higher, than that of ratiocination, if 
such a thing is conceivable, and such a thing is conceivable, since 
I conceive it. Yes, the words I heard, and heard distinctly, having 
quite a sensitive ear, were heard a first time, then a second, and 
often even a third, as pure sounds, free of all meaning, and this 
is probably one of the reasons why conversation was unspeakably 
painful to me. And the words I uttered myself, and which must 
nearly always have gone with an effort of the intelligence, were 
often to me as the buzzing of an insect. And this is perhaps one 
of the reasons I was so untalkative, I mean this trouble I had in 
understanding not only what others said to me, but also what I 
said to them. It is true that in the end, by dint of patience, we made 
ourselves understood, but understood with regard to what, I ask of 
you, and to what purpose? And to the noises of nature too, and of 
the works of men, I reacted I think in my own way and without 
desire of enlightenment. And my eye too, the seeing one, must 
have been ill-connected with the spider, for I found it hard to 
name what was mirrored there, often quite distinctly. And without 
going so far as to say that I saw the world upside down (that would 
have been too easy) it is certain I saw it in a way inordinately 
formal, though I was far from being an aesthete, or an artist. And 
of my two eyes only one functioning more or less correctly, I mis- 
judged the distance separating me from the other world, and often 
I stretched out my hand for what was far beyond my reach, and 
often I knocked against obstacles scarcely visible on the horizon. 
But I was like that even when I had my two eyes, it seems to me, 
but perhaps not, for it is long since that era of my life, and my recol- 
lection of it is more than imperfect. And now I come to think of it, 
my attempts at taste and smell were scarcely more fortunate, I smelt 
and tasted without knowing exactly what, nor whether it was good, 
nor whether it was bad, and seldom twice running the same thing. 
I would have been I think an excellent husband, incapable of 
wearying of my wife and committing adultery only from absent- 



mindedness. Now as to telling you why I stayed a good while with 
Lousse, no, I cannot. That is to say I could I suppose, if I took the 
trouble. But why should I? In order to establish beyond all question 
that I could not do otherwise? For that is the conclusion I would 
come to, fatally. I who had loved the image of old Geulincx, dead 
young, who left me free, on the black boat of Ulysses, to crawl 
towards the East, along the deck. That is a great measure of free- 
dom, for him who has not the pioneering spirit. And from the poop, 
poring upon the wave, a sadly rejoicing slave, I follow with my 
eyes the proud and futile wake. Which, as it bears me from no 
fatherland away, bears me onward to no shipwreck. A good while 
then with Lousse. It’s vague, a good while, a few months perhaps, 
a year perhaps. I know it was warm again the day I left, but that 
meant nothing, in my part of the world, where it seemed to be 
warm or cold or merely mild at any moment of the year and where 
the days did not run gently up and down, no, not gently. Perhaps 
things have changed since. So all I know is that it was much the 
same weather when I left as when I came, so far as I was capable 
of knowing what the weather was. And I had been under the 
weather so long, under all weathers, that I could tell quite well 
between them, my body could tell between them and seemed even to 
have its likes, its dislikes. I think I stayed in several rooms one 
after the other, or alternately, I don’t know. In my head there are 
several windows, that I do know, but perhaps it is always the same 
one, open variously on the parading universe. The house was fixed, 
that is perhaps what I mean by these different rooms. House and 
garden were fixed, thanks to some unknown mechanism of com- 
pensation, and I, when I stayed still, as I did most of the time, was 
fixed too, and when I moved, from place to place, it was very 
slowly, as in a cage out of time, as the saying is, in the jargon of 
the schools, and out of space too to be sure. For to be out of one 
and not out of the other was for cleverer than me, who was not 
clever, but foolish. But I may be quite wrong. And these different 
windows that open in my head, when I grope again among those 
days, really existed perhaps and perhaps do still, in spite of my 
being no longer there, I mean there locking at them, opening them 
and shutting them, or crouched in a corner of the room marvelling 



at the things they framed. But I will not dwell on this episode, so 
ludicrously brief when you think of it and so poor in substance. For 
I helped neither in the house nor the garden and knew nothing of 
what work was going forward, day and night, nothing save the 
sounds that came to me, dull sounds and sharp ones too, and 
then often the roar of air being vigorously churned, it seemed to 
me, and which perhaps was nothing more than the sound of burn- 
ing. I preferred the garden to the house, to judge by the long hours 
I spent there, for I spent there the; greater part of the day and of 
the night,' whether it was wet or whether it was fine. Men were 
always busy there, working at I know not what. For the garden 
seemed hardly to change, from day to day, apart from the tiny 
changes due to the customary cycle of birth, life and death. And 
in the midst of those men I drifted like a dead leaf on springs, or 
else I lay down on the ground, and then they stepped gingerly over 
me as though I had been a bed of rare flowers. Yes, it was doubtless 
in order to preserve the garden from apparent change that they 
laboured at it thus. My bicycle had disappeared again. Sometimes 
I felt the wish to look for it again, to find it again and find out 
what was wrong with it or even go for a little ride on the walks 
and paths connecting the different parts of the garden. But instead 
of trying to satisfy this wish I stayed where I was looking at it, if 
I may say so, looking at it as it shrivelled up and finally disap- 
peared, like the famous fatal skin, only much quicker. For there 
seem to be two ways of behaving in the presence of wishes, the 
active and the contemplative, and though they both give the same 
result it was the latter I preferred, matter of temperament I pre- 
sume. The garden was surrounded with a high wall, its top bristling 
with broken glass like fins. But what must have been absolutely 
unexpected was this, that this wall was broken by a wicket-gate 
giving free access to the road, for it was never locked, of that I was 
all but convinced, having opened and closed it without the least 
trouble on more than one occasion, both by day and by night, and 
seen it used by others than myself, for the purpose as well of en- 
trance as of exit. I would stick out my nose, then hastily call it 
in again. A few further rerqprks. Never did I see a woman within 
these precincts, and by precincts I do not merely mean the garden. 

mollo y 


as I probably should, but the house too, but only men, with the 
obvious exception of Lousse. What I saw and did not see did not 
matter much admittedly, but I mention it all the same. Lousse her- 
self I saw but little, she seldom showed herself to me, out of tact 
perhaps, fearing to alarm me. But I think she spied on me a great 
deal, hiding behind the bushes, or the curtains, or skulking in the 
shadows of a first-floor room, with a spy-glass perhaps. For had 
she not said she desired above all to see me, both coming and going 
and rooted to the spot. And t<* get a good view you need the key- 
hole, the little chink among the leaves, and so on, whatever prevents 
you from being seen and from seeing more than a little at a time. 
No? I don’t know. Yes, she inspected me, little by little, and even 
in my very going to bed, my sleeping and my getting up, the 
mornings that I went to bed. For in this matter I remained faithful 
to my custom, which was to sleep in the morning, when I slept at 
all. For it sometimes happened that I did not sleep at all, for 
several days, without feeling at all the worse for it. For my waking 
was a kind of sleeping. And I did not always sleep in the same 
place, but now I slept in the garden, which was large, and now I 
slept in the house, which was large too, really extremely spacious. 
And this uncertainty as to the hour and place of my sleeping must 
have entranced her, I imagine, and made the time pass pleasantly. 
But it is useless to dwell on this period of my life. If I go on long 
enough calling that my life I’ll end up by believing it. It’s the prin- 
ciple of advertising. This period of my life. It reminds me, when I 
think of it, of air in a water-pipe. So I will only add that this woman 
went on giving me slow poison, slipping I know not what poisons 
into the drink she gave me, or into the food she gave me, or both, 
or one day one, the next the other. That is a grave charge to bring 
and I do not bring it lightly. And I bring it without ill-feeling, yes, 
I accuse her without ill-feeling of having drugged my food and 
drink with noxious and insipid powders and potions. But even 
sipid they would have made no difference, I would have swallowed 
it all down with the same whole-heartedness. That celebrated whiff 
of almonds for example would never have taken away my appetite. 
My appetite! What a subject. For conversation. I had hardly any. 
I ate like a thrush. But the little I did eat I devoured with a voracity 



usually attributed to heavy eaters, and wrongly, for heavy eaters 
as a rule eat ponderously and with method, that follows from the 
very notion of heavy eating. Whereas I flung myself at the mess, 
gulped down the half or the quarter of it in two mouthfuls without 
chewing (with what would I have chewed?), then pushed it from 
me with loathing. One would have thought I ate to live! Similarly 
I would engulf five or six mugs of beer with one swig, then drink 
nothing for a week. What do you expect, one is what one is, partly 
at least. Nothing or little to be done. Now as to the substances she 
insinuated thus into my various systems, I could not say whether 
they were stimulants or whether they were not rather depressants. 
The truth is, cocnaesthetically speaking of course, I felt more or less 
the same as usual, that is to say, if I may give myself away, so 
terror-stricken that I was virtually bereft of feeling, not to say of 
consciousness, and drowned in a deep and merciful torpor shot with 
brief abominable gleams, I give you my word. Against such har- 
mony of what avail the miserable molys of Loussc, administered 
in infinitesimal doses probably, to draw the pleasure out. Not that 
they remained entirely without cllcct, no, that would be an exag- 
geration. For from time to time I caught myself making a little 
bound in the air, two or three feet off the ground at least, I who 
never bounded. It looked like levitation. And it happened too, less 
surprisingly, when I was walking, or even propped up against some- 
thing, that I suddenly collapsed, like a puppet when its strings are 
dropped, and lay long where I fell, literally boneless. Yes, that 
struck me as less strange, for I was used to collapsing thus, but 
with this difference, that I felt it coming, and prepared myself 
accordingly, as an epileptic docs when he feels the fit coming. I 
mean that knowing I was going to fall I lay down, or I wedged 
myself where I stood so firmly that nothing short of an earthquake 
could have dislodged me, and I waited. But these were precautions 
I did not always take, preferring the fall to the trouble of having to 
lie down or stand fast. Whereas the falls I suffered when with 
Loussc did not give me a chance to circumvent them. But all the 
same they surprised me less, they were more in keeping with me, 
than the little bounds. For even as a child I do not remember ever 
having bounded, neither rage nor pain ever made me bound, even 



as a child, however ill-qualified I am to speak of that time. Now 
with regard to my food, it seems to me I ate it as, when and where it 
best suited me. I never had to call for it. It was brought to me, 
wherever I happened to be, on a tray. I can still see the tray, 
almost at will, it was round, with a low rim, to keep the things 
from falling off, and coated with red lacquer, cracking here and 
there. It was small too, as became a tray having to hold a single 
dish and one slab of bread. For the little I ate I crammed into 
my mouth with my hands, and the bottles I drank from the bottle 
were brought to me separately, in a basket. But this basket made 
no impression on me, good or bad, and I could not tell you what 
it was like. And many a time, having strayed for one reason or 
another from the place where the meal had been brought to me, 
I couldn’t find it again, when I felt the desire to eat. Then I searched 
high and low, often with success, being fairly familiar with the 
places where it was likely to have been, but often too, in vain. 
Or I did not search at all, preferring hunger and thirst to the trouble 
of having to search without being sure of finding, or of having to 
ask for another tray to be brought, and another basket, or the same, 
to the place where I was. It was then I regretted my sucking-stone. 
And when I talk of preferring, for example, or regretting, it must 
not be supposed that I opted for the least evil, and adopted it, 
for that would be wronc. But not knowing exactly what I was 
doing or avoiding, I did it and avoided it all unsuspecting that one 
day, much later, I would have to go back over all these acts and 
omissions, dimmed and mellowed by age, and drag them into the 
eudcmonistic slop. But I must say that with Lousse my health got 
no worse, or scarcely. By which I mean that what was already 
wrong with me got worse and worse, little by little, as was only 
to be expected. But there was kind'ed no new seat of suffering or 
infection, except of course those arising from the spread of existing 
plethoras and deficiencies. But I may very well be wrong. For of 
the disorders to come, as for example the loss of the toes of my 
left foot, no, I am wrong, my right foot, who can say exactly when 
on my helpless clay the fatal seeds were sown. So all I can say, and I 
do my best to say no more, is that during my stay with Lousse no 
more new symptoms appeared, of a pathological nature, I mean 



nothing new or strange, nothing I could not have foreseen if I could 
have, nothing at all comparable to the sudden loss of half my toes. 
For that is something I could never have foreseen and the meaning 
of which I have never fathomed, I mean its connection with my 
other discomforts, from my ignorance of medical matters. I sup- 
pose. For all things run together, in the body’s long madness, I 
feel it. But it is useless to drag out this chapter of my, how shall 
I say, my existence, for it has no sense, to my mind. It is a dug 
at which I tug in vain, it yields nothing but wind and spatter. So 
I will confine myself to the following brief additional remarks, and 
the first of which is this, that Lousse was a woman of extraor- 
dinary flatness, physically speaking of course, to such a point that 
I am still wondering this evening, in the comparative silence of 
my last abode, if she was not a man rather or at least an androgyne. 
She had a somewhat hairy face, or am I imagining it, in the in- 
terests of the narrative? The poor woman, I saw her so little, so 
little looked at her. And was not her voice suspiciously deep? So 
she appears to me today. Don’t be tormenting yourself, Molloy, 
man or woman, what does it matter? But I cannot help asking 
myself the following question. Could a woman have stopped me 
as I swept towards mother? Probably. Better still, was such an 
encounter possible, I mean between me and a woman? Now men, 
I have rubbed up against a few men in my time, but women? 
Oh well, I may as well confess it now, yes, I once rubbed up 
against one. I don’t mean my mother, I did more than rub up 
against her. And if you don’t mind we’ll leave my mother out of 
all this. But another who might have been my mother, and even 
I think my grandmother, if chance had not willed otherwise. Listen 
to him now talking about chance. It was she made me acquainted 
with love. She went by the peaceful name of Ruth I think, but I 
can’t say for certain. Perhaps the name was Edith. She had a hole 
between her legs, oh not the bunghole I had always imagined, 
but a slit, and in this I put, or rather she put, my so-called virile 
member, not without difficulty, and I toiled and moiled until I 
discharged or gave up trying or was begged by her to stop. A mug’s 
game in my opinion and Airing on top of that, in the long run. 
But I lent myself to it with a good enough grace, knowing it was 



love, for she had told me so. She bent over the couch, because of 
her rheumatism, and in I went from behind. It was the only position 
she could bear, because of her lumbago. It seemed all right to me, 
for I had seen dogs, and I was astonished when she confided that 
you could go about it differently. I wonder what she meant exactly. 
Perhaps after all she put me in her rectum. A matter of complete 
indifference to me, I needn’t tell you. But is it true love, in the 
rectum? That’s what bothers me sometimes. Have I never known 
true love, after all? She too was an eminently flat woman and she 
moved with short stiff steps, leaning on an ebony stick. Perhaps 
she too was a man, yet another of them. But in that case surely 
our testicles would have collided, while we writhed. Perhaps she 
held hers tight in her hand, on purpose to avoid it. She favoured 
voluminous tempestuous shifts and petticoats and other undergar- 
ments whose names I forget. They welled up all frothing and swish- 
ing and then, congress achieved, broke over us in slow cascades. 
And all I could see was her taut yellow nape which every now 
and then I set my teeth in, forgetting I had none, such is the power 
of instinct. We met in a rubbish dump, unlike any other, and yet 
they are all alike, rubbish dumps. I don’t know what she was doing 
there. I was limply poking about in the garbage saying probably, 
for at that age I must still have been capable of general ideas. This 
is life. She had no time to lose, I had nothing to lose, I would have 
made love with a goat, to know what love was. She had a dainty 
flat, no, not dainty, it made you want to lie down in a corner and 
never get up again. I liked it. It was full of dainty furniture, under 
our desperate strokes the couch moved forward on its castors, the 
whole place fell about our ears, it was pandemonium. Our com- 
merce was not without tenderness, with trembling hands she cut 
my toe-nails and I rubbed her rump with winter cream. This idyll 
was of short duration. Poor Edith, I hastened her end perhaps. Any- 
way it was she who started it, in the rubbish dump, when she laid her 
hand upon my fly. More precisely, I was bent double over a heap 
of muck, in the hope of finding something to disgust me for ever 
with eating, when she, undertaking me from behind, thrust her 
stick betweens my legs and began to titillate my privates. She gave 
me money after each session, to me who would have consented to 



know love, and probe it to the bottom, without charge. But she 
was an idealist. I would have preferred it seems to me an orifice 
less arid and roomy, that would have given me a higher opinion 
of love it seems to me. However. Twixt finger and thumb ’tis heaven 
in comparison. But love is no doubt above such base contingencies. 
And not when you are comfortable, but when your frantic member 
casts about for a rubbing-place, and the unction of a little mucous 
membrane, and meeting with none does not beat in retreat, but re- 
tains its tumefaction, it is then no dqubt that true love comes to pass, 
and wings away, high above the tight fit and the loose. And when 
you add a little pedicure and massage, having nothing to do with 
the instant of bliss strictly speaking, then I feel no further doubt 
is justified, in this connection? The other thing that bothers me, in 
this connection, is the indifference with which I learnt of her death, 
one black night I was crawling towards her, an indifference softened 
indeed by the pain of losing a source of revenue. She died taking a 
warm tub, as her custom was before receiving me. It limbered her 
up. When I think she might have expired in my arms! The tub 
overturned and the dirty water spilt all over the floor and down 
on top of the lodger below, who gave the alarm. Well, well, I 
didn’t think I knew this story so well. She must have been a woman 
after all, if she hadn’t been it would have got around in the neigh- 
bourhood. It is true they were extraordinarily reserved, in my part 
of the world, about everything connected with sexual matters. But 
things have perhaps changed since my time. And it is quite 
possible that the fact of having found a man when they should 
have found a woman was immediately repressed and forgotten, 
by the few unfortunate enough to know about it. As it is quite 
possible that everybody knew about it, and spoke about it, with 
the sole exception of myself. But there is one thing that tor- 
ments me, when I delve into all this, and that is to know whether 
all my life has been devoid of love or whether I really met with it, 
in Ruth. What I do know for certain is that I never sought to 
repeat the experience, having I suppose the intuition that it had 
been unique and perfect, of its kind, achieved and inimitable, and 
that it behoved me to preserve its memory, pure of all pastiche, 
in my heart, even if it meant my resorting from time to time to 



the alleged joys of so-called self-abuse. Don’t talk to me about 
the chambermaid, I should never have mentioned her, she was long 
before, I was sick, perhaps there was no chambermaid, ever, in 
my life. Molloy, or life without a chambermaid. All of which goes 
to demonstrate that the fact of having met Lousse and even fre- 
quented her, in a way, proved nothing as to her sex. And I am 
quite willing to go on thinking of her as an old woman, widowed 
and withered, and of Ruth as another, for she too used to speak 
of her defunct husband and of his inability to satisfy her legitimate 
cravings. And there arc days, like this evening, when my memory 
confuses them and I am tempted to think of them as one and the 
same old hag, flattened and crazed by life. And God forgive me 
to tell you the horrible truth, my mother’s image sometimes mingles 
with theirs, which is literally unendurable, like being crucified, I 
don’t know why and I don’t want to. But I left Lousse at last, one 
warm airless night, without saying goodbye, as I might at least 
have done, and without her trying to hold me back, except perhaps 
by spells. But she must have seen me go, get up, take my crutches 
and go away, springing on them through the air. And she must 
have seen the wicket close behind me, for it closed by itself, with 
the help of a spring, and known me gone, for ever. For she knew 
the way I had of going to the wicket and peeping out, then quickly 
drawing back. And she did not try and hold me back but she went 
and sat down on her dog's grave, perhaps, which was mine too in 
a way, and which by the way she had not sown with grass, as I 
had thought, but with all kinds of little many-coloured flowers and 
herbaceous plants, selected I imagine in such a way that when some 
went out others lit up. I left her my bicycle which I had taken a 
dislike to, suspecting it to be the vehicle of some malignant agency 
and perhaps the cause of my recent misfortunes. But all the same 
I would have taken it with me if I had known where it was and that 
it was m running order. But I did not. And I was afraid, if I tried 
to find out, of wearing out the small voice saying. Get out of here, 
Molloy, take your crutches and get out of here, and which I had 
taken so long to understand, for I had been hearing it for a long 
time. And perhaps I understood it al^ wrong, but I understood it 
and that was the novelty. And it seemed to me I was not necessarily 



going for good and that I might come back one day, by devious 
winding ways, to the place I was leaving. And perhaps my course 
it not yet fully run. Outside in the road the wind was blowing, it 
was another world. Not knowing where I was nor consequently 
what way I ought to go I went with the wind. And when, well 
slung between my crutches, I took off, then I felt it helping me, 
that little wind blowing from what quarter I could not tell. And 
don’t come talking at me of the stars, they look all the same to me, 
yes, I cannot read the stars, in spite of my astronomical studies. 
But I entered the first shelter I came to and stayed there till dawn, 
for I knew I was bound to be stopped by the first policeman and 
asked what I was doing, a question to which I have never been 
able to find the correct reply. But it cannot have been a real shelter 
and I did not stay till dawn, for a man came in soon after me and 
drove me out. And yet there was room for two. I think he was a 
kind of nightwatchman, a man of some kind certainly, he must have 
been employed to watch over some kind of public works, digging 
I suppose. I see a brazier. There must have been a touch of autumn 
in the air, as the saying is. I therefore moved on and ensconced 
myself on a flight of stairs, in a mean lodging-house, because there 
was no door or it didn’t shut, I don’t know. Long before dawn 
this lodging-house began to empty. People came down the stairs, 
men and women. I glued myself against the wall. They paid no 
heed to me, nobody interfered with me. In the end I too went away, 
when I deemed it prudent, and wandered about the town in search 
of a familiar monument, so that I might say, I am in my town, 
after all, I have been there all the time. The town was waking, 
doors opening and shutting, soon the noise would be deafening. 
But espying a narrow alley between two high buildings I looked 
about me, then slipped into it. Little windows overlooked it, on 
either side, on every floor, facing one another. Lavatory lights I 
suppose. There are things from time to time, in spite of everything, 
that impose themselves on the understanding with the force of 
axioms, for unknown reasons. There was no way out of the alley, 
it was not so much an alley as a blind alley. At the end there were 
two recesses, no, that’s not,the word, opposite each other, littered 
with miscellaneous rubbish and with excrements, of dogs and 



masters, some dry and odourless, others still moist. Ah those papers 
never to be read again, perhaps never read. Here lovers must have 
lain at night and exchanged their vows. I entered one of the alcoves, 
wrong again, and leaned against the wall. I would have preferred 
to lie down and there was no proof that I would not. But for the 
moment I was content to lean against the wall, my feet far from 
the wall, on the verge of slipping, but I had other props, the tips of 
my crutches. But a few minutes later I crossed the alley into the 
other chapel, that’s the word, yvhere I felt I might feel better, and 
settled myself in the same hypotenusal posture. And at first I did 
actually seem to feel a little better, but little by little I acquired 
the conviction that such was not the case. A fine rain was falling 
and I took off my hat to give my skull the benefit of it, my skull 
all cracked and furrowed and on fire, on fire. But I also took it off 
because it was digging into my neck, because of the thrust of the 
wall. So I had two good reasons for taking it off and they were 
none too many, neither alone would ever have prevailed I feel. I 
threw it from me with a careless lavish gesture and back it came, 
at the end of its string or lace, and after a few throws came to rest 
against my side. At last I began to think, that is to say to listen 
harder. Little chance of my being found there, I was in peace for 
as long as I could endure peace. For the space of an instant I 
considered settling down there, making it my lair and sanctuary, 
for the space of an instant. I took the vegetable knife from my 
pocket and set about opening my wrist. But pain soon got the better 
of me. First I cried out, then I gave up, closed the knife and put 
it back in my pocket. I wasn’t particularly disappointed, in my 
heart of hearts I had not hoped for anything better. So much for 
that. And backsliding has always depressed me, but life seems 
made up of backsliding, and death itself must be a kind of back- 
sliding, I wouldn’t be surprised. Did I say the wind had fallen? 
A fine rain falling, somehow that seems to exclude all idea of wind. 
My knees are enormous, I have just caught a glimpse of them, when 
I got up for a second. My two legs are as stiff as a life-sentence and 
yet I sometimes get up. What can you expect? Thus from time to 
time I shall recall my present existence compared to which this 
is a nursery tale. But only from time to time, so that it may be 



said, if necessary, whenever necessary. Is it possible that thing is 
still alive? Or again. Oh it’s only a diary, it’ll soon be over. That my 
knees are enormous, that I still get up from time to time, these are 
things that do not seem at first sight to signify anything in particu- 
lar. I record them all the more willingly. In the end I left the im- 
passe, where half-standing, half-lying I may have had a little sleep, 
my little morning sleep, and I set off, believe it or not, towards 
the sun, why not, the wind having fallen. Or rather towards the 
least gloomy quarter of the heaven^, which a vast cloud was shroud- 
ing from the zenith to the skylines. It was from this cloud the 
above rain was falling. See how all things hang together. And as 
to making up my mind which quarter of the heavens was the least 
gloomy, it was no easy matter. For at first sight the heavens seemed 
uniformly gloomy. But by taking a little pains, for there were 
moments in my life when I took a little pains, I obtained a result, 
that is to say I came to a decision, in this matter. So I was able to 
continue on my way, saying, I am going towards the sun, that is 
to say in theory towards the East, or perhaps the South-East, for 
I am no longer with Lousse, but out in the heart again of the pre- 
established harmony, which makes so sweet a music, which is so 
sweet a music, for one who has an car for music. People were 
hastening angrily to and fro, most of them, some in the shelter of 
the umbrella, others in that perhaps a little less effective of the 
rainproof coat. A few had taken refuge under trees and archways. 
And among those who, more courageous or less delicate, came and 
went, and among those who had stopped, to avoid getting wet, 
many a one must have said. They arc right, I am wrong, meaning 
by they the category to which he did not belong, or so I imagine. 
As many a one too must have said, I am right, they are wrong, 
while continuing to storm against the foul weather that was the 
occasion of his superiority. But at the sight of a young old man 
of wretched aspect, shivering all alone in a narrow doorway, I 
suddenly remembered the project conceived the day of my en- 
counter with Lousse and her dog and which this encounter had 
prevented me from carrying out. So I went and stood beside him, 
with the air, I hoped, of one jvho says. Here’s a clever fellow, let me 
follow his example. But before I should make my little speech. 



which I wished to seem spontaneous and so did not make at once, 
he went out into the rain and away. For this speech was one liable, 
in virtue of its content, if not to offend at least to astonish. 
And that was why it was important to deliver it at the right 
moment and in the right tone. I apologise for these details, 
in a moment we’ll go faster, much faster. And then perhaps 
relapse again into a wealth of filthy circumstance. But which 
in its turn again will give way to vast frescoes, dashed off with 
loathing. Homo mensura can’t do without stallage. There I am 
then in my turn alone, in the doorway. I could not hope for anyone 
to come and stand beside me, and yet it was a possibility I did not 
exclude. That’s a fairly good caricature of my state of mind at that 
instant. Net result, I stayed where I was. I had stolen from Lousse 
a little silver, oh nothing much, massive teaspoons for the most 
part, and other small objects whose utility I did not grasp, but 
which seemed as if they might have some value. Among these 
latter there was one which haunts me still, from time to time. It 
consisted of two crosses joined, at their points of intersection, by 
a bar., and resembled a tiny sawing-horse, with this difference 
however, that the crosses of the true sawing-horse are not perfect 
crosses, but truncated at the top, whereas the crosses of the little 
object I am referring to were perfect, that is to say composed each 
of two identical V’s, one upper with its opening above, like all V’s 
for that matter, and the other lower with its opening below, or more 
precisely of four rigorously identical V’s, the two I have just named 
and then two more, one on the right hand, the other on the left, 
having their openings on the right and the left respectively. But 
perhaps it is out of place to speak here of right and left, of upper 
and lower. For this little object did not seem to have any base 
properly so-called, but stood with equal stability on any one of its 
true of the sawing-horse. This strange instrument I think I still 
four bases’, and without any change of appearance, which is not 
have somewhere, for I could never bring myself to sell it, even in 
my worst need, for I could never understand what possible purpose 
it could serve, nor even contrive the faintest hypothesis on the 
subject. And from time to time I took it # from my pocket and gazed 
upon it, with an astonished and affectionate gaze, if I had not been 



incapable of affection. But for a certain time I think it inspired 
me with a kind of veneration, for there was no doubt in my mind 
that it was not an object of virtue, but that it had a most specific 
function always to be hidden from me. I could therefore puzzle 
over it endlessly without the least risk. For to know nothing is 
nothing, not to want to know anything likewise, but to be beyond 
knowing anything, to know you are beyond knowing anything, that 
is when peace enters in, to the soul of the incurious seeker. It is 
then the true division begins, of twenty-two by seven for example, 
and the pages fill with the true ciphers at last. But I would rather 
not affirm anything on this subject. What does seem undeniable 
to me on the contrary is this, that giving in to the evidence, to a 
very strong probability rather, I left the shelter of the doorway 
and began levering myself forward, swinging slowly through the 
sullen air. There is rapture, or there should be, in the motion 
crutches give. It is a series of little flights, skimming the ground. 
You take off, you land, through the thronging sound in wind and 
limb, who have to fasten one foot to the ground before they dare 
lift up the other. And even their most joyous hastenings is less 
aerial than my hobble. But these are reasonings, based on analysis. • 
And though my mind was still taken up with my mother, and with 
the desire to know if I was near her, it was gradually less so, 
perhaps because of the silver in my pockets, but I think not, and 
then too because these were ancient cares and the mind cannot 
always brood on the same cares, but needs fresh cares from time 
to time, so as to revert with renewed vigour, when the time comes, 
to ancient cares. But can one speak here of fresh and ancient cares? 

I think not. But it would be hard for me to prove it. What I can 
assert, without fear of — without fear, is that I gradually lost interest 
in knowing, among other things, what town I was in and if I should 
soon find my mother and settle the matter between us. And even 
the nature of that matter grew dim, for me, without however vanish- 
ing completely. For it was no small matter and I was bent on it. 
All my life, I think, I had been bent on it. Yes, so far as I was 
capable of being bent on anything all a lifetime long, and what a 
lifetime, I had been bent on settling this matter between my mother 
and me, but had never succeeded. And while saying to myself that 



time was running out, and that soon it would be too late, was per- 
haps too late already, to settle the matter in question, I felt myself 
drifting towards other cares, other phantoms. And far more than 
to know what town I was in, my haste was now to leave it, even 
were it the right one, where my mother had waited so long and 
perhaps was waiting still. And it seemed to me that if I kept on in 
a straight line I was bound to leave it, sooner or later. So I set 
myself to this as best I could, making allowance for the drift to 
the right of the feeble light that was my guide. And my pertinacity 
was such that I did indeed come' to the ramparts as night was fall- 
ing, having described a good quarter of a circle, through bad navi- 
gation. It is true I stopped many times, to rest, but not for long, 
for I felt harried, wrongly perhaps. But in the country there is 
another justice, other judges, at first. And having cleared the ram- 
parts I had to confess the sky was clearing, prior to its winding in 
the other shroud, night. Yes, the great cloud was ravelling, discover- 
ing here and there a pale and dying sky, and the sun, already down, 
was manifest in the livid tongues of fire darting towards the zenith, 
falling and darting again, ever more pale and languid, and doomed 
i no sooner lit to be extinguished. This phenomenon, if I remember 
rightly, was characteristic of my region. Things are perhaps dif- 
ferent today. Though I fail to see, never having left my region, 
what right I have to speak of its characteristics. No, I never escaped, 
and even the limits of my region were unknown to me. But I felt 
they were far away. But this feeling was based on nothing serious, 
it was a simple feeling. For if my region had ended no further than 
my feet could carry me, surely I would have felt it changing slowly. 
For regions do not suddenly end, as far as I know, but gradually 
merge into one another. And I never noticed anything of the kind, 
but however far I went, and in no matter what direction, it was al- 
ways the same sky, always the same earth, precisely, day after day 
and v.igrit after night. On the other hand, if it is true that regions 
gradually merge into one another, and this remains to be proved, 
then I may well have left mine many times, thinking I was still 
within it. But I preferred to abide by my simple feeling and its 
voice that said, Molloy, your region is vast, you have never left it 
and you never shall. And wheresoever you wander, within its distant 



limits, things will always be the same, precisely. It would thus 
appear, if this is so, that my movements owed nothing to the places 
they caused to vanish, but were due to something else, to the 
buckled wheel that carried me, in unforeseeable jerks, from fatigue 
to rest, and inversely, for example. But now I do not wander any 
more, anywhere any more, and indeed I scarcely stir at all, and 
yet nothing is changed. And the confines of my room, of my bed, 
of my body, are as remote from me as were those of my region, in 
the days of my splendour. And the cycle continues, joltingly, of 
flight and bivouac, in an Egypt without bounds, without infant, 
without mother. And when I see my hands, on the sheet, which 
they love to floccillate already, they arc not mine, less than ever 
mine, I have no arms, they are a couple, they play with the sheet, 
love-play perhaps, trying to get up perhaps, one on top of the other. 
But it doesn’t last, I bring them back, little by little, towards me, 
it’s resting time. And with my feet it’s the same, sometimes, when 
I see them at the foot of the bed, one with toes, the other without. 
And that is more deserving of mention. For my legs, corresponding 
here to my arms of a moment ago, are both stiff now and very 
sore, and I shouldn't be able to forget them as I can my arms, « 
which are more or less sound and well. And yet I do forget them 
and I watch the couple as they watch each other, a great way off. 
But my feet are not like my hands, I do not bring them back to 
me, when they become my feet again, for I cannot, but they stay 
there, far from me, but not so far as before. End of the recall. But 
you'd think that once well clear of the town, and having turned 
round to look at it, what there was to sec of it, you’d think that 
then I should have realised whether it was really my town or not. 
But no, I looked at it in vain, and perhaps unquestioningly, and 
simply to give the gods a chance, by turning round. Perhaps I only 
made a show of looking at it. I didn’t feel I missed my bicycle, 
no, not really, I didn’t mind going on my way the way I said, 
swinging low in the dark over the earth, along the little empty 
country roads. And I said there was little likelihood of my being 
molested and that it was more likely I should molest them, if they 
saw me. Morning is the time to hide. They wake up, hale and 
hearty, their tongues hanging out for order, beauty and justice. 



baying for their due. Yes, from eight or nine till noon is the dan- 
gerous time. But towards noon things quiet down, the most im- 
placable are sated, they go home, it might have been better but 
they’ve done a good job, there have been a few survivors, but they’ll 
give no more trouble., each man counts his rats. It may begin again 
in the early afternoon, after the banquet, the celebrations, the con- 
gratulations, the orations, but it’s nothing compared to the morn- 
ing, mere fun. Coming up to four or five of course there is the 
night-shift, the watchmen, beginning to bestir themselves. But al- 
ready the day is over, the shadows lengthen, the walls multiply, 
you hug the walls, bowed down like a good boy, oozing with obse- 
quiousness, having nothing to hide, hiding from mere terror, look- 
ing neither right nor left, hiding but not provocatively, ready to 
come out, to smile, to listen, to crawl, nauseating but not pestilent, 
less rat than toad. Then the true night, perilous too, but sweet to 
him who knows it, who can open to it like the flower to the sun, 
who himself is night, day and night. No there is not much to be 
said for the night either, but compared to the day there is much to 
be said for it, and notably compared to the morning there is every- 
thing to be said for it. For the night purge is in the hands of tech- 
nicians, for the most part. They do nothing else, the bulk of the 
population have no part in it, preferring their warm beds, all things 
considered. Day is the time for lynching, for sleep is sacred, and 
especially the morning, between breakfast and lunch. My first care 
then, after a few miles in the desert dawn, was to look for a place 
to sleep, for sleep too is a kind of protection, strange as it may 
seem. For sleep, if it excites the lust to capture, seems to appease 
the lust to kill, there and then and bloodily, any hunter will tell 
you that. For the monster on the move, or on the watch, lurking in 
his lair, there is no mercy, whereas he taken unawares, in his sleep, 
may sometimes get the benefit of milder feelings, which deflect the 
barrel r’.,eathe the kris. For the hunter is weak at heart and senti- 
mental, overflowing with repressed treasures of gentleness and com- 
passion. And it is thanks to this sweet sleep of terror or exhaustion 
that many a foul beast, and worthy of extermination, can live on 
till he dies in the peace and quiet of our zoological gar dens, broken 
only by the innocent laughter, the knowiife laughter, of children and 



their elders, on Sundays and Bank Holidays. And I for my part 
have always preferred slavery to death, I mean being put to death. 
For death is a condition I have never been able to conceive to my 
satisfaction and which therefore cannot go down in the ledger of 
weal and woe. Whereas my notions on being put to death inspired 
me with confidence, rightly or wrongly, and I felt I was entitled 
to act on them, in certain emergencies. Oh they weren’t notions like 
yours, they were notions like mine, all spasm, sweat and trembling, 
without an atom of common sense or lucidity. But they were the 
best I h^d. Yes, the confusion of my ideas on the subject of death 
was such that I sometimes wondered, believe me or not, if it wasn’t 
a state of being even worse than life. So I found it natural not to 
rush into it and, when I forgot myself to the point of trying, to stop 
in time. It’s my only excuse. So I crawled into some hole somewhere 
I suppose and waited, half sleeping, half sighing, groaning and 
laughing, or feeling my body, to sec if anything had changed, for 
the morning frenzy to abate. Then 1 resumed my spirals. And as 
to saying what became of me, and where I went, in the months and 
perhaps the years that followed, no. For I weary of these inventions 
and others beckon to me. But in order to blacken a few more pages 
may I say I spent some time at the seaside, without incident. There 
are people the sea doesn’t suit, who prefer the mountains or the 
plain. Personally I feel no worse there than anywhere else. Much 
of my life has ebbed away before this shivering expanse, to the 
sound of the waves in storm and calm, and the claws of the surf. 
Before, no, more than before, one with, spread on the sand, or in 
a cave. In the sand I was in my element, letting it trickle between 
my fingers, scooping holes that I filled in a moment later or that 
filled themselves in, flinging it in the air by handfuls, rolling in it. 
And in the cave, lit by the beacons at night, I knew what to do in 
order to be no worse off than elsewhere. And that my land went 
no further, in one direction at least, did not displease me. And to 
feel there was one direction at least in which I could go no further, 
without first getting wet,, then drowned, was a blessing. For I have 
always said. First learn to walk, then you can take swimming 
lessons. But don’t imagine my region ended at the coast, that would 
be a grave mistake. For It was this sea too, its reefs and distant 



islands, and its hidden depths. And I too once went forth on it, 
in a sort of oarless skiff, but I paddled with an old bit of driftwood. 
And I sometimes wonder if I ever came back, from that voyage. 
For if I see myself putting to sea, and the long hours without land- 
fall, I do not see the return, the tossing on the breakers, and I do 
not hear the frail keel grating on the shore. I took advantage of 
being at the seaside to lay in a store of sucking-stones. They were 
pebbles but I call them stones. Yes, on this occasion I laid in a 
considerable store. I distributed them equally between my four 
pockets, and sucked them turn ahd turn about. This raised a prob- 
lem which I first solved in the following way. I had say sixteen 
stones, four in each of my four pockets these being the two pockets 
of my trousers and the two pockets of my greatcoat. Taking a 
stone from the right pocket of my greatcoat, and putting it in my 
mouth, I replaced it in the right pocket of my greatcoat by a stone 
from the right pocket of my trousers, which I replaced by a stone 
from the left pocket of my trousers, which I replaced by a stone 
from the left pocket of my greatcoat, which I replaced by the stone 
which was in my mouth, as soon as I had finished sucking it. Thus 
there were still four stones in each of my four pockets, but not 
quite the same stones. And when the desire to suck took hold of 
me again, I drew again on the right pocket of my greatcoat, certain 
of not taking the same stone as the last time. And while I sucked 
it I rearranged the other stones in the way I have just described. 
And so on. But this solution did not satisfy me fully. For it did 
not escape me that, by an extraordinary hazard, the four stones 
circulating thus might always be the same four. In which case, far 
from sucking the sixteen stones turn and turn about, I was really only 
sucking four, always the same, turn and turn about. But I shuffled 
them well in my pockets, before I began to suck, and again, while 
I sucked, before transferring them, in the hope of obtaining a more 
general circulation of the stones from pocket to pocket. But this 
was only a makeshift that could not long content a man like me. 
So I began to look for something else. And the first thing I hit 
upon was that I might do better to transfer the stones four by four, 
instead of one by one, that is to say, during the sucking, to take 
the three stones remaining in the right jJocket of my greatcoat and 



replace them by the four in the right pocket of my trousers, and 
these by the four in the left pocket of my trousers, and these by the 
four in the left pocket of my greatcoat, and finally these by the 
three from the right pocket of my greatcoat, plus the one, as soon 
as I had finished sucking it, which was in my mouth. Yes, it seemed 
to me at first that by so doing I would arrive at a better result. 
But on further reflection I had to change my mind and confess that 
the circulation of the stones four by four came to exactly the same 
thing as their circulation one by one. For if I was certain of finding 
each time, in the right pocket of' my greatcoat, four stones totally 
different from their immediate predecessors, the possibility never- 
theless remained of my always chancing on the same stone, within 
each group of four, and consequently of my sucking, not the sixteen 
turn and turn about as I wished, but in fact four only, always the 
same, turn and turn about. So I had to seek elsewhere than in the 
mode of circulation. For no matter how I caused the stones to cir- 
culate. I always ran the same risk. It was obvious that by increasing 
the number of my pockets I was bound to increase my chances of 
enjoying my stones in the way I planned, that is to say one after 
the other until their number was exhausted. Had I had eight 
pockets, for example, instead of the four I did have, then even the 
most diabolical hazard could not have prevented me from sucking 
at least eight of my sixteen stones, turn and turn about. The truth 
is I should have needed sixteen pockets in order to be quite easy in 
my mind. And for a long time I could sec no other conclusion 
than this, that short of having sixteen pockets, each with its stone, 
I could never reach the goal I had set myself, short of an extra- 
ordinary hazard. And if at a pinch I could double the number of 
my pockets, were it only by dividing each pocket in two, with the 
help of a few safety-pins let us say, to quadruple them seemed to 
be more than I could manage. And T did not feel inclined to take all 
that trouble for a half-measure. For I was beginning to lose all sense 
of measure, after all this wrestling and wrangling, and to say. All 
or nothing. And if I was tempted for an instant to establish a more 
equitable proportion between my stones and my pockets, by reduc- 
ing the former to the number of the latter, it was only for an instant. 
For it would have been an admission of defeat. And sitting on the 



shore, before the sea, the sixteen stones spread out before my eyes, 

I gazed at them in anger and perplexity. For just as I had difficulty 
in sitting on a chair, or in an arm-chair, because of my stiff leg 
you understand, so I had none in sitting on the ground, because 
of my stiff leg and my stiffening leg, for it was about this time that 
my good leg, good in the sense that it was not stiff, began to stiffen. 

I needed a prop under the ham you understand, and even under 
the whole length of the leg, the prop of the earth. And while I 
gazed thus at my stones, revolving interminable martingales all 
equally defective, and crushing Handfuls of sand, so that the sand 
ran through my fingers and fell back on the strand, yes, while thus 
I lulled my mind and part of my body, one day suddenly it dawned 
on the former, dimly, that I might perhaps achieve my purpose 
without increasing the number of my pockets, or reducing the 
number of my stones, but simply by sacrificing the principle of 
trim. The meaning of this illumination, which suddenly began to 
sing within me, like a verse of Isaiah, or of Jeremiah, I did not 
penetrate at once, and notably the word trim, which I had never 
met with, in this sense, long remained obscure. Finally I seemed 
, k to grasp that this word trim could not here mean anything else, 
anything better, than the distribution of the sixteen stones in 
four groups of four, one group in each pocket, and that it was my 
refusal to consider any distribution other than this that had vitiated 
my calculations until then and rendered the problem literally in- 
soluble. And it was on the basis of this interpretation, whether right 
or wrong, that I finally reached a solution, inelegant assuredly, but 
sound, sound. Now I am willing to believe, indeed I firmly believe, 
that other solutions to this problem might have been found, and 
indeed may still be found, no less sound, but much more elegant, 
than the one I shall now describe, if I can. And I believe too that 
had I been a little more insistent, a little more resistant, I could 
have fr and them myself. But I was tired, but I was tired, and I 
cont nted myself ingloriously with the first solution that was a 
solution, to this problem. But not to go over the heartbreaking 
stages through which I passed before I came to it, here it is, in all 
its hideousness. All (all!) that was necessary was to put for 
example, to begin with, six stones in the right pocket of my great- 



coat, or supply-pocket, five in the right pocket of my trousers, and 
five in the left pocket of my trousers, that makes the lot, twice five 
ten plus six sixteen, and none, for none remained, in the left pocket 
of my greatcoat, which for the time being remained empty, empty 
of stones that is, for its usual contents remained, as well as occa- 
sional objects. For where do you think I hid my vegetable knife, 
my silver, my horn and the other things that I have not yet named, 
perhaps shall never name. Good. Now I can begin to suck. Watch 
me closely.-I take a stone from the right pocket of my greatcoat, 
suck it, stop sucking it, put it in the left pocket of my greatcoat, 
the one empty (of stones). I take a second stone from the right 
pocket of my greatcoat, suck it, put it in the left pocket of my 
greatcoat. And so on until the right pocket of my greatcoat is 
empty (apart from its usual and casual contents) and the six stones 
I have just sucked, one after the other, are all in the left pocket of 
my greatcoat. Pausing then, and concentrating, so as not to make a 
balls of it, I transfer to the right pocket of my greatcoat, in which 
there are no stones left, the five stones in the right pocket of my 
trousers, which I replace by the five stones in the left pocket of my 
trousers, which I replace by the six stones in the left pocket of my 
greatcoat. At this stage then the left pocket of my greatcoat is 
again empty of stones, while the right pocket of my greatcoat is 
again supplied, and in the right way, that is to say with other stones 
than those I have just sucked. These other stones I then begin 
to suck, one after the other, and to transfer as I go along to 
the left pocket of my greatcoat, being absolutely certain, as far 
as one can be in an affair of this kind, that I am not sucking the 
same stones as a moment before, but others. And when the right 
pocket of my greatcoat is again empty (of stones), and the five I 
have just sucked are all without exception in the left pocket of my 
greatcoat, then I proceed to the same redistribution as a moment 
before, or a similar redistribution, that is to say I transfer to the 
right pocket of my greatcoat, now again available, the five stones 
in the right pocket of my trousers, which I replace by the six stones 
in the left pocket of my trousers, which I replace by the five stones 
in the left pocket of my greatcoat. And there I am ready to begin 
again. Do I have to go on? No, for it is clear that after the next 



series, of sucks and transfers, I shall be back where I started, that 
is to say with the first six stones back in the supply pocket, the 
next five in the right pocket of my stinking old trousers and finally 
the last five in left pocket of same, and my sixteen stones will have 
been sucked once at least in impeccable succession, not one sucked 
twice, not one left unsucked. It is true that the next time I could 
scarcely hope to suck my stones in the same order as the first time 
and that the first, seventh and twelfth for example of the first 
cycle might very well be the sixth, eleventh and sixteenth respec- 
tively of the second, if the worst* came to the worst. But that was 
a drawback I could not avoid. And if in the cycles taken together 
utter confusion was bound to reign, at least within each cycle 
taken separately I could be easy in my mind, at least as easy as 
one can be, in a proceeding of this kind. For in order for each 
cycle to be identical, as to the succession of stones in my mouth, 
and God knows I had set my heart on it, the only means were 
numbered stones or sixteen pockets. And rather than make twelve 
more pockets or number my stones, I preferred to make the best 
of the comparative peace of mind I enjoyed within each cycle taken 
separately. For it was not enough to number the stones, but I would 
have had to remember, every time I put a stone in my mouth, the 
number I needed and look for it in my pocket. Which would have 
put me off stone for ever, in a very short time. For I would never 
have been sure of not making a mistake, unless of course I had 
kept a kind of register, in which to tick off the stones one by one, 
as I sucked them. And of this I believed myself incapable. No, the 
only perfect solution would have been the sixteen pockets, sym- 
metrically disposed, each one with its stone. Then I would have 
needed neither to number nor to think, but merely, as I sucked a 
given stone, to move on the fifteen others, each to the next pocket, 
a delicate business admittedly, but within my power, and to call 
always on the same pocket when I felt like a suck. This would 
have freed me from all anxiety, not only within each cycle taken 
separately, but also for the sum of all cycles, though they went on 
forever. But however imperfect my own solution was, I was pleased 
at having found it all alone, yes, quite pleased. And if it was 
perhaps less sound than I had thought in'the first flush of discovery. 



its inelegance never diminished. And it was above all inelegant in 
this, to my mind, that the uneven distribution was painful to me, 
bodily. It is true that a kind of equilibrium was reached, at a given 
moment, in the early stages of each cycle, namely after the third 
suck and before the fourth, but it did not last long, and the rest 
of the time I felt the weight of the stones dragging me now to one 
side, now to the other. So it was something more than a principle 
I abandoned, when I abandoned the equal distribution, it was a 
bodily need. But to suck the stones in the way I have described, 
not haphazard, but with method, was also I think a bodily need. 
Here then were two incompatible bodily needs, at loggerheads. 
Such things happen. But deep down I didn’t give a tinker’s curse 
about being off my balance, dragged to the right hand and the left, 
backwards and forwards. And deep down it was all the same to 
me whether I sucked a different stone each time or always the 
same stone, until the end of time. For they all tasted exactly the 
same. And if I had collected sixteen, it was not in order to ballast 
myself in such and such a way, or to suck them turn about, but 
simply to have a little store, so as never to be without. But deep 
down I didn’t give a fiddler’s curse about being without, when they 
were all gone they would be all gone, I wouldn’t be any the worse 
off, or hardly any. And the solution to which I rallied in the end 
was to throw away all the stones but one, which I kept now in one 
pocket, now in another, and which of course I soon lost, or threw 
away, or gave away, or swallowed. It was a wild part of the coast. 
I don’t remember having been seriously molested. The black speck 
I was, in the great pale stretch of sand, who could wish it harm? 
Some came near, to see what it was, whether it wasn’t something 
of value from a wreck, washed up by the storm. But when they 
saw the jetsam was alive, decently if wretchedly clothed, they turned 
away. Old women and young ones, yes, too, come to gather wood, 
came and stared, in the early days. But they were always the same 
and it was in vain I moved from one place to another, in the end 
they all knew what I was and kept their distance. 1 think one of 
them one day, detaching herself from her companions, came and 
offered me something to eat and that I looked at her in silence, 
until she went away. YSs, it seems to me some such incident 



occurred about this time. But perhaps I am thinking of another 
stay, at an earlier time, for this will be my last, my last but one, or 
two, there is never a last, by the sea. However that may be I see a 
young woman coming towards me and stopping from time to time 
to look back at her companions. Huddled together like sheep they 
watch her recede, urging her on, and laughing no doubt, I seem to 
hear laughter far away. Then it is her back I see, as she goes away, 
now it is towards me she looks back, but without stopping. But 
perhaps I am merging two times in one, and two women, one com* 
ing towards me, shyly, urged on* by the cries and laughter of her 
companions, and the other going away from me, unhesitatingly. 
For those who came towards me I saw coming from afar, most 
of the time, that is one of the advantages of the seaside. Black 
specks in the distance I saw them coming, I could follow all their 
manoeuvres, saying. It’s getting smaller, or, it’s getting bigger. 
Yes, to be taken unawares was so to speak impossible, for I 
turned often towards the land too. Let me tell you something, my 
sight was better at the seaside! Yes, ranging far and wide over 
these vast flats, where nothing lay, nothing stood, my good eye 
saw more clearly and there were even days when the bad one too 
had to look away. And not only did I see more clearly, but I had 
less difficulty in saddling with a name the rare things I saw. These 
are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the seaside. Or 
perhaps it was I who was changing, why not? And in the morning, 
in my cave, and even sometimes at night, when the storm raged, 
I felt reasonably secure from the elements and mankind. But there 
too there is a price to pay. In vour box, in your caves, there too 
there is a price to pay. And which you pay willingly, for a time, 
but which you cannot go on paying forever. For you cannot go 
on buying the same thing forever, with your little pittance. And 
unfortunately there are other needs than that of rotting in peace, 
it’s no* iiie word, I mean of course my mother whose image, 
blunted for some time past, was beginning now to harrow me again. 
So I went back inland, for my town was not strictly speaking on 
the sea, whatever may have been said to the contrary. And to get 
to it you had to go inland, I at least knew of no other way. For 
between my town and the sea there wal a kind of swamp which. 



as far back as I can remember, and some of my memories have 
their roots deep in the immediate past, there was always talk of 
draining, by means of canals I suppose, or of transforming into 
a vast port and docks, or into a city on piles for the workers, in 
a word of redeeming somehow or other. And with the same stone 
they would have killed the scandal, at the gates of their metropolis, 
of a stinking steaming swamp in which an incalculable number 
of human lives were yearly engulfed, the statistics escape me for 
the moment and doubtless always will, so complete is my indiffer- 
ence to this aspect of the question. It is true they actually began 
to work and that work is still going on in certain areas in the teeth 
of adversity, setbacks, epidemics and the apathy of the Public 
Works Department, far from me to deny it. But from this to pro- 
claiming that the sea came lapping at the ramparts of my town, 
there was a far cry. And I for my part will never lend myself to 
such a perversion (of the truth), until such time as I am compelled 
or find it convenient to do so. And I knew this swamp a little, 
having risked my life in it, cautiously, on several occasions, at a 
period of my life richer in illusions than the one I am trying to 
patch together here, I mean richer in certain illusions, in others 
poorer. So there was no way of coming at my town directly, by sea, 
but you had to disembark well to the north or the south and 
take to the roads, just imagine that, for they had never heard of 
Watt, just imagine that too. And now my progress, slow and pain- 
ful at all times, was more so than ever, because of my short stiff leg, 
the same which I thought had long been as stiff as a leg could be, but 
damn the bit of it, for it was growing stiffer than ever, a thing I 
would not have thought possible, and at the same time shorter 
every day, but above all because of the other leg, supple hitherto 
and now growing rapidly stiff in its turn, but not yet shortening, 
unhappily. For when the two legs shorten at the same time, and at 
the same speed, then all is not lost, no. But when one shortens, 
and the other not, then you begin to be worried. Oh not that I 
was exactly worried, but it was a nuisance, yes, a nuisance. For 
I didn’t know which foot to land on, when I came down. Let us 
try and get this dilemma clear. Follow me carefully. The stiff leg 
hurt me, admittedly, I mein the old stiff leg, and it was the other 



which I normally used as a pivot, or prop. But now this latter, 
as a result of its stiffening I suppose, and the ensuing commotion 
among nerves and sinews, was beginning to hurt me even more 
than the other. What a story, God send I don’t make a balls of it. 
For the old pain, do you follow me, I had got used to it, in a way, 
yes, in a kind of way. Whereas to the new pain, though of the same 
family exactly, I had not yet had time to adjust myself. Nor should 
it be forgotten that having one bad leg plus another more or less 
good, I was able to nurse the former, and reduce its sufferings to 
the minimum, to the maximum, by using the former exclusively, 
with the help of my crutches. But I no longer had this resource! 
For I no longer had one bad leg plus another more or less good, 
but now both were equally bad. And the worse, to my mind, was 
that which till now had been good, at least comparatively good, 
and whose change for the worse I had not yet got used to. So in 
a way, if you like, I still had one bad leg and one good, or rather 
less bad, with this difference however, that the less bad now was 
the less good of heretofore. It was therefore on the old bad leg 
that I often longed to lean, between one crutchstroke and the next. 
JFor while still extremely sensitive, it was less so than the other, 
or it was equally so, if you like, but it did not seem so, to me, 
because of its seniority. But I couldn’t! What? Lean on it. For it 
was shortening, don’t forget, whereas the other, though stiffening, 
was not yet shortening, or so far behind its fellow that to all intents 
and purposes, intents and purposes, I’m lost, no matter. If I could 
even have bent it, at the knee, or even at the hip, I could have made 
it seem as short as the other, long enough to land on the true short 
one, before taking off again. But I couldn’t. What? Bend it. For 
how could I bend it, when it was stiff? I was therefore compelled 
to work the same old leg as heretofore, in spite of its having 
become, at least as far as the pain was concerned, the worse of the 
two arJ the more in need of nursing. Sometimes to be sure, when 
I was lucky enough to chance on a road conveniently cambered, 
or by taking advantage of a not too deep ditch or any other breach 
of surface, I managed to lengthen my short leg, for a short time. 
But it had done no work for so long that it did not know how to 
go about it. And I think a pile of dishes would have better sup- 



ported me than it, which had so well supported me, when I was a 
tiny tot. And another factor of disequilibrium was here involved, 
I mean when I thus made the best of the lie of the land, I mean 
my crutches, which would have needed to be unequal, one short 
and one long, if I was to remain vertical. No? I don’t know. In 
any case the ways I went were for the most part little forest paths, 
that’s understandable, where differences of level, though abounding, 
were too confused and too erratic to be of any help to me. But did 
it make such a difference after all, as far as the pain was concerned, 
whether my leg was free to rest or whether it had to work? I think 
not. For the suffering of the leg at rest was constant and monoto- 
nous. Whereas the leg condemned to the increase of pain inflicted 
by work knew the decrease of pain dispensed by work suspended, 
the space of an instant. But I am human, I fancy, and my progress 
suffered, from this state of affairs, and from the slow and painful 
progress it had always been, whatever may have been said to the 
contrary, was changed, saving your presence, to a veritable cal- 
vary, with no limit to its stations and no hope of crucifixion, though 
I say it myself, and no Simon, and reduced me to frequent halts. 
Yes, my progress reduced me to stopping more and more often,, 
it was the only way to progress, to stop. And though it is no part 
of my tottering intentions to treat here in full, as they deserve, 
these brief moments of the immemorial expiation, I shall never- 
theless deal with them briefly, out of the goodness of my heart, 
so that my story, so clear till now, may not end in darkness, the 
darkness of these towering forests, these giant fronds, where I 
hobble, listen, fall, rise, listen and hobble on, wondering sometimes, 
need I say, if I shall ever see again the hated light, at least unloved, 
stretched palely between the last boles, and my mother, to settle 
with her, and if I would not do better, at least just as well, to hang 
myself from a bough, with a liane. For, frankly, light meant noth- 
ing to me now, and my mother could scarcely be waiting for me 
still, after so long. And my legs, my legs. But the thought of suicide 
had little hold on me, I don’t know why, I thought 1 did, but I 
see I don’t. The idea of strangulation in particular, however tempt- 
ing, I always overcame, after a short struggle. And between you 
and me there was never anything wrong with my respiratory tracts. 



apart, of course, from the agonies intrinsic to that system. Yes, I 
could count the days when I could neither breathe in the blessed 
air with its life-giving oxygen nor, when I had breathed it in, 
breathe out the bloody stuff, I could have counted them. Ah yes, 
my asthma, how often I was tempted to put an end to it, by cutting 
my throat. But I never succumbed. The noise betrayed me, I turned 
purple. It came on mostly at night, fortunately, or unfortunately, 
I could never make up my mind. For if sudden changes of colour 
matter less at night, the least unusual noise is then more noticeable, 
because of the silence of the nigfit. But these were mere crises, and 
what are crises compared to all that never stops, knows neither 
ebb nor flow, its surface leaden above infernal depths. Not a word, 
not a word against the crises that seized me, wrung me, and finally 
threw me away, mercifully, safe from help. And I wrapped my 
head in my coat, to stifle the obscene noise of choking, or I dis- 
guised it as a fit of coughing, universally accepted and approved 
and whose only disadvantage is this, that it is liable to let you in 
for pity. And this is perhaps the moment to observe, better late 
than never, that when I speak of my progress being slowed down, 
consequent on the defection of my good leg, I express only an infini- 
tesimal part of the truth. For the truth is I had other weak points, 
here and there, and they too were growing weaker and weaker, 
as was only to be expected. But what was not to be expected was 
the speed at which their weakness had increased, since my depar- 
ture from the seaside. For as long as I had remained at the seaside 
my weak points, while admittedly increasing in weakness, as was 
only to be expected, only increased imperceptibly, in weakness I 
mean. So that I would have hesitated to exclaim, with my finger 
up my arse-hole for example, Jesus-Christ, it’s much worse than 
yesterday, I can hardly believe it is the same hole. I apologise for 
having to revert to this lewd orifice, 'tis my muse will have it so. 
Perhaps ; " is less to be thought of as the eyesore here called by its 
name *han as the symbol of those passed over in silence, a distinc- 
tion due perhaps to its centrality and its air of being a link between 
me and the other excrement. We underestimate this little hole, it 
seems to me, we call it the arse-hole and affect to despise it. But 
is it not rather the true portal of our being and the celebrated 



mouth no more than the kitchen-door. Nothing goes in, or so little, 
that is not rejected on the spot, or very nearly. Almost everything 
revolts it that comes from without and what comes from within 
does not seem to receive a very warm welcome either. Are not 
these significant facts? Time will tell. But I shall do my utmost 
none the less to keep it in the background in the future. And that 
will be easy, for the future is by no means uncertain, the unspeak- 
able future. And when it comes to neglecting fundamentals, I think 
I have nothing to learn, and indeed I confuse them with accidentals. 
But to -return to my weak poirits, let me say again that at the 
seaside they had developed normally, yes, I had noticed nothing 
abnormal. Either because I did not pay enough attention to them, 
absorbed as I was in the metamorphosis of my excellent leg, or 
because there was in fact nothing special to report, in this connec- 
tion. But I had hardly left the shore, harried by the dread of waking 
one fine day, far from my mother, with my two legs as stiff as my 
crutches, when they suddenly began to gallop, my weak points did, 
and their weakness became literally the weakness of death, with 
all the disadvantages that this entails, when they are not vital 
points. I fix at this period the dastardly desertion of my toes, so 
to speak in the thick of the fray. You may object that this is 
covered by the business of my legs, that it has no importance, 
since in any case I could not put to the ground the foot in question. 
Quite, quite. But do you as much as know what foot we’re talking 
about? No. Nor I. Wait till I think. But you are right, that wasn’t 
a weak point properly speaking, I mean my toes, I thought they 
were in excellent fettle, apart from a few corns, bunions, ingrowing 
nails and a tendency to cramp. No, my true weak points were else- 
where. And if I do not draw up here and now the impressive list 
of them it is because I shall never draw it up. No, I shall never 
draw it up, yes, perhaps I shall. And then I should be sorry to 
give a wrong idea of my health which, if it was not exactly rude, 
to the extent of my bursting with it, was at bottom of an incredible 
robustness. For otherwise how could I have reached the enormous 
age I have reached. Thanks to moral qualities? Hygienic habits? 
Fresh air? {Starvation? Lack of sleep? Solitude? Persecution? The 
long silent screams (dangerous to scream)? The daily longing for 



the earth to swallow me up? Come come. Fate is rancorous, but 
not to that extent. Look at Mammy. What rid me of her, in the 
end? I sometimes wonder. Perhaps they buried her alive, it wouldn’t 
surprise me. Ah the old bitch, a nice dose she gave me, she and her 
lousy unconquerable genes. Bristling with boils ever since I was 
a brat, a fat lot of good that ever did me. The heart beats, and 
what a beat. That my ureters — no, not a word on that subject. 
And the capsules. And the bladder. And the urethra. And the 
glands. Santa Maria. I give you my word, I cannot piss, my word 
of honour, as a gentleman. Bdt my prepuce, sat verbum, oozes 
urine, day and night, at least I think it’s urine, it smells of kidney. 
What’s all this, I thought I had lost the sense of smell. Can one 
speak of pissing, under these conditions? Rubbish ! My sweat too, 
and God knows I sweat, has a queer smell. I think it’s in my 
dribble as well, and heaven knows I dribble. How I eliminate, to 
be sure, uremia will never be the death of me. Me too they would 
bury alive, in despair, if there was any justice in the world. And 
this list of my weak points I shall never draw up, for fear of its 
finishing me, I shall perhaps, one day, when the time come for the 
inventory of my goods and chattels. For that day, if it ever dawns, 
I shall be less afraid, of being finished, than I am today. For today, 
if I do not feel precisely at the beginning of my career, I have not 
the presumption either to think I am near the end. So I husband 
my strength, for the spurt. For to be unable to spurt, when the 
hour strikes, no, you might as well give up. But it is forbidden to 
give up and even to stop an instant. So I wait, jogging along, for 
the bell to say, Molloy, one last effort, it’s the end. That’s how I 
reason, with the help of images little suited to my situation. And 
I can’t shake off the feeling, I don’t know why, that the day will 
come for me to say what is left of all I had. But I must first wait, 
to be sure there is nothing more I can acquire, or lose, or throw 
away, o- give away. Then I can say, without fear of error, what is 
left, in the end, of my possessions. For it will be the end. And 
between now and then I may get poorer, or richer, oh not to the 
extent of being any better off, or any worse off, but sufficiently to 
preclude me from announcing, here and now, what is left of all 
I had, for I have not yet had all. But t can make no sense of this 



presentiment, and that I understand is very often the case with 
the best presentiments, that you can make no sense of them. So 
perhaps it is a true presentiment, apt to be borne out. But can 
any more sense be made of false presentiments? I think so, yes, 

I think that all that is false may more readily be reduced, to notions 
clear and distinct, distinct from all other notions. But I may be 
wrong. But I was not given to presentiments, but to sentiments 
sweet and simple, to episentiments rather, if I may venture to say 
so. For I knew in advance, which made all presentiment superfluous. 

I will even go further (what can 1 lose?), I knew only in advance, 
for when the time came I knew no longer, you may have noticed 
it, or only when I made a superhuman effort, and when the time 
was past I no longer knew either, I regained my ignorance. And all 
that taken together, if that is possible, should serve to explain many 
things, and notably my astonishing old age, still green in places, 
assuming the state of my health, in spite of all I have said about 
it, is insufficient to account for it. Simple supposition, committing 
me to nothing. But I was saying that if my progress, at this stage, 
was becoming more and more slow and painful, this was not due 
solely to my legs, but also to innumerable so-called weak points,, 
having nothing to do with my legs. Unless one is to suppose, 
gratuitously, that they and my legs were part of the same syndrome, 
which in that case would have been of a diabolical complexity. 
The fact is, and I deplore it, but it is too late now to do anything 
about it, that I have laid too much stress on my legs, throughout 
these wanderings, to the detriment of the rest. For I was no ordin- 
ary cripple, far from it, and there were days when my legs were 
the best part of me, with the exception of the brain capable of 
forming such a judgement. I was therefore obliged to stop more 
and more often, I shall never weary of repeating it, and to lie 
down, in defiance of the rules, now prone, now supine, now on 
one side, now on the other, and as much as possible with the feet 
higher than the head, to dislodge the clots. And to lie with the feet 
higher than the head, when your legs arc stiff, is no easy matter. 
But don’t worry, I did it. When my comfort was at stake there was 
no trouble I would not go to. The forest was all about me and the 
boughs, twining together at a prodigious height, compared to mine. 



sheltered me from the light and the elements. Some days I advanced 
no more than thirty or forty paces, I give you my oath. To say 
I stumbled in impenetrable darkness, no, I cannot. I stumbled, 
but the darkness was not impenetrable. For there reigned a kind 
of blue gloom, more than sufficient for my visual needs. I was 
astonished this gloom was not green, rather than blue, but I saw 
it blue and perhaps it was. The red of the sun, mingling with the 
green of the leaves, gave a blue result, that is how I reasoned. But 
from time to time. From time to time. What tenderness in these 
little words, what savagery. Bui from time to time I came on a 
kind of crossroads, you know, a star, or circus, of the kind to be 
found in even the most unexplored of forests. And turning then 
methodically to face the radiating paths in turn, hoping for I 
know not what, I described a complete circle, or less than a circle, 
or more than a circle, so great was the resemblance between them. 
Here the gloom was not so thick and I made haste to leave it. I 
don’t like gloom to lighten, there’s something shady about it. I 
had a certain number of encounters in this forest, naturally, where 
does one not, but nothing to signify. I notably encountered a char- 
coal-burner. I might have loved him, I think, if I had been seventy 
years younger. But it’s not certain. For then he too would have 
been younger by as much, oh not quite as much, but much 
younger. I never really had much love to spare, but all the same 
I had my little quota, when I was small, and it went to the old men, 
when it could. And I even think I had time to love one or two, oh 
not with true love, no, nothing like the old woman. I’ve lost her 
name again. Rose, no, anyway you see who I mean, but all the 
same, how shall 1 say, tenderly, as those on the brink of a better 
earth. Ah I was a precocious child, and then I was a precocious 
man. Now they all give me the shits, the ripe, the unripe and the 
rotting from the bough. He was all over me, begging me to share 
his hu f . 1 believe it or not. A total stranger. Sick with solitude 
probably. I say charcoal-burner, but I really don’t know. I see 
smoke somewhere. That’s something that never escapes me, smoke. 
A long dialogue ensued, interspersed with groans. I could not ask 
him the way to my town, the name of which escaped me still. I 
asked him the way to the nearest town, 1 found the necessary words 



and accents. He did not know. He was born in the forest probably 
and had spent his whole life there. I asked him to show me the 
nearest way out of the forest. I grew eloquent. His reply was ex- 
ceedingly confused. Either I didn’t understand a word he said, or 
he didn't understand a word I said, or he knew nothing, or he 
wanted to keep me near him. It was towards this fourth hypothesis 
that in all modesty I leaned, for when I made to go, he held me 
back by the sleeve. So I smartly freed a crutch and dealt him a 
good dint on the skull. That calmed him. The dirty old brute. 
I got upiand went on. But I hadn't gone more than a few paces, and 
for me at this time a few paces meant something, when I turned 
and went back to where he lay, to examine him. Seeing he had not 
ceased to breathe I contented myself with giving him a few warm 
kicks in the ribs, with my heels. This is how I went about it. I 
carefully chose the most favourable position, a few paces from the 
body, with my back of course turned to it. Then, nicely balanced 
on my crutches, I began to swing, backwards, forwards, feet pressed 
together, or rather legs pressed together, for how could I press my 
feet together, with my legs in the state they were? But how could 
I press my legs together, in the state they were? I pressed them 
together, that’s all I can tell you. Take it or leave it. Or I didn’t 
press them together. What can that possibly matter? I swung, 
that’s all that matters, in an ever-widening arc, until I decided the 
moment had come and launched myself forward with all my 
strength and consequently, a moment later, backward, which gave 
the desired result. Where did I get this access of vigour? From my 
weakness perhaps. The shock knocked me down. Naturally. I came 
a cropper. You can't have everything. I’ve often noticed it. I rested 
a moment, then got up, picked up my crutches, took up my position 
on the other side of the body and applied myself with method to the 
same exercise. I always had a mania for symmetry. But I must have 
aimed a little low and one of my heels sank in something soft. 
However. For if I had missed the ribs, with that heel, I had no 
doubt landed in the kidney, oh not hard enough to burst it, no, 
I fancy not. People imagine, because you are old, poor, crippled, 
terrified, that you can’t stand up for yourself, and generally speak- 
ing that is so. But given favourable conditions, a feeble and awk- 



ward assailant, in your own class what, and a lonely place, and 
you have a good chance of showing what stuff you are made of. 
And it is doubtless in order to revive interest in this possibility, 
too often forgotten, that I have delayed over an incident of no 
interest in itself, like all that has a moral. But did I at least eat, 
from time to time? Perforce, perforce, roots, berries, sometimes a 
little mulberry, a mushroom from time to time, trembling, know- 
ing nothing about mushrooms. What else, ah yes, carobs, so dear 
to goats. In a word whatever I could find, forests abound in good 
things. And having heard, or rhore probably read somewhere, in 
the days when I thought I would be well advised to educate myself, 
or amuse myself, or stupefy myself, or kill time, that when a man 
in a forest thinks he is going forward in a straight line, in reality 
he is going in a circle, I did my best to go in a circle, hoping in this 
way to go in a straight line. For I stopped being half-witted and 
became sly, whenever I took the trouble. And my head was a store- 
house of useful knowledge. And if I did not go in a rigorously 
straight line, with my system of going in a circle, at least I did not 
go in a circle, and that was something. And by going on doing this, 
day after day, and night after night, I looked forward to getting 
out of the forest, some day. For my region was not all forest, far 
from it. But there were plains too, mountains and sea, and some 
towns and villages, connected by highways and byways. And I 
was all the more convinced that I would get out of the forest 
some day as I had already got out of it, more than once, and I knew 
how difficult it was not to do again what you have done before. 
But things had been rather different then. And yet I did not despair 
of seeing the light tremble, some day, through the still boughs, the 
strange light of the plain, its pale wild eddies, through the bronze- 
still boughs, which no breath ever stirred. But it was a day I 
dreaded too. So that I was sure it would come sooner or later. 
For it -''as not so bad being in the forest, I could imagine worse, 
and l could have stayed there till I died, unrepining, yes, without 
pining for the light and the plain and the other amenities of 
my region. For I knew them well, the amenities of my region, 
and I considered that the forest was no worse. And it was not 
only no worse, to my mind, but it w£s better, in this sense, that 



I was there. That is a strange way, is it not, of looking at things. 
Perhaps less strange than it seems. For being in the forest, a place 
neither worse nor better than the others, and being free to stay 
there, was it not natural I should think highly of it, not because of 
what it was, but because I was there. For I was there. And being 
there I did not have to go there, and that was not to be despised, 
seeing the state of my legs and my body in general. That is all I 
wished to say, and if I did not say it at the outset it is simply that 
something was against it. But I could not, stay in the forest I mean, 
I was n5t free to. That is to say I could have, physically nothing 
could have been easier, but I was not purely physical, I lacked 
something, and I would have had the feeling, if I had stayed in the 
forest, of going against an imperative, at least I had that impression. 
But perhaps I was mistaken, perhaps I would have been better 
advised to stay in the forest, perhaps I could have stayed there, 
without remorse, without the painful impression of committing a 
fault, almost a sin. For I have greatly sinned, at all times, greatly 
sinned against my prompters. And if I cannot decently be proud 
of this I see no reason cither to be sorry. But imperatives are a 
little different, and I have always been inclined to submit to them, 
I don’t know why. For they never led me anywhere, but tore me 
from places where, if all was not well, all was no worse than any- 
where else, and then went silent, leaving me stranded. So I knew 
my imperatives well, and yet I submitted to them. It had become 
a habit. It is true they nearly all bore on the same question, that 
of my relations with my mother, and on the importance of bringing 
as soon as possible some light to bear on these and even on the 
kind of light that should be brought to bear and the most effective 
means of doing so. Yes, these imperatives were quite explicit and 
even detailed until, having set me in motion at last, they began to 
falter, then went silent, leaving me there like a fool who neither 
knows where he is going nor why he is going there. And they 
nearly all bore, as I may have said already, on the same painful 
and thorny question. And I do not think I could mention even one 
having a different purport. And the one enjoining me then to leave 
the forest without delay was in no way different from those I was 
used to. as to its meaning. For in its framing I thought I noticed 



something new. For after the usual blarney there followed this 
solemn warning, Perhaps it is already too late. It was in Latin, 
nimis sero, I think that’s Latin. Charming things, hypothetical im- 
peratives. But if I had never succeeded in liquidating this matter 
of my mother, the fault must not be imputed solely to that voice 
which deserted me, prematurely. It was partly to blame, that’s all 
it can be reproached with. For the outer world opposed my suc- 
ceeding too, with its wiles, I have given some examples. And even 
if the voice could have harried me to the very scene of action, even 
then I might well have succeeded no better, because of the other 
obstacles barring my way. And in this command which faltered, 
then died, it was hard not to hear the unspoken entreaty. Don’t 
do it, Molloy. In forever reminding me thus of my duty was its 
purpose to show me the folly of it? Perhaps. Fortunately it did no 
more than stress, the better to mock if you like, an innate velleity. 
And of myself, all my life, I think I had been going to my mother, 
with the purpose of establishing our relations on a less precarious 
footing. And when I was with her, and I often succeeded, I left her 
without having done anything. And when I was no longer with her 
I was again on my way to her, hoping to do better the next time. 
And when I appeared to give up and to busy myself with some- 
thing else, or with nothing at all any more, in reality I was hatching 
my plans and seeking the way to her house. This is taking a queer 
turn. So even without this so-called imperative I impugn, it would 
have been difficult for me to stay in the forest, since I was forced 
to assume my mother was not there. And yet it might have 
been better for me to try and stay. But I also said. Yet a little 
while, at the rate things are going, and I won’t be able to move, 
but will have to stay, where I happen to be, unless someone comes 
and carries me. Oh I did not say it in such limpid language. And 
when I say I said, etc., all I mean is that I knew confusedly things 
were sc. without knowing exactly what it was all about. And every 
time I say, I said this, or. I said that, or speak of a voice saying, 
far away inside me, Molloy, and then a line phrase more or less 
clear and simple, or find myself compelled to attribute to others 
intelligible words, or hear my own voice uttering to others more or 
less articulate sounds, I am merely complying with the convention 



that demands you either lie or hold your peace. For what really 
happened was quite different. And I did not say. Yet a little while, 
at the rate things are going, etc., but that resembled perhaps what 
I would have said, if I had been able. In reality I said nothing at 
all, but I heard a murmur, something gone wrong with the silence, 
and I pricked up my ears, like an animal I imagine, which gives 
a start and pretends to be dead. And then sometimes there arose 
within me, confusedly, a kind of consciousness, which I express 
by saying, I said, etc., or. Don’t do it Molloy, or. Is that your 
mother’s dame? said the sergeant, I quote from memory. Or which 
I express without sinking to the level of oratio recta, but by means 
of other figures quite as deceitful, as for example. It seemed to me 
that, etc., or, I had the impression that, etc., for it seemed to me 
nothing at all, and I had no impression of any kind, but simply 
somewhere something had changed, so that I too had to change, or 
the world too had to change, in order for nothing to be changed. 
And it was these little adjustments, as between Galileo’s vessels, 
that I can only express by saying, I feared that, or, I hoped that, 
or. Is that your mother’s name? said the sergeant, for example, 
and that I might doubtless have expressed otherwise and better, 
if I had gone to the trouble. And so I shall perhaps some day when 
I have less horror of trouble than today. But I think not. So I said. 
Yet a little while, at the rate things are going, and I won’t be able 
to move, but will have to stay, where I happen to be, unless some 
kind person comes and carries me. For my marches got shorter 
and shorter and my halts in consequence more and more frequent 
and I may add prolonged. For the notion of the long halt does not 
necessarily follow from that of the short march, nor that of the 
frequent halt cither, when you come to think of it, unless you give 
frequent a meaning it does not possess, and I could never bring 
myself to do a thing like that. And it seemed to me all the more 
important to get out of this forest with all possible speed as I would 
very soon be powerless to get out of anything whatsoever, were it 
but a bower. It was winter, it must have been winter, and not only 
many trees had lost their leaves, but these lost leaves had gone all 
black and spongy and my crutches sank into them, in places right 
up to the fork. Strange to say I felt no colder than usual. Perhaps 



it was only autumn. But I was never very sensitive to changes of 
temperature. And the gloom, if it seemed less blue than before, 
was as thick as ever. Which made me say in the end. It is less 
blue because there is less green, but it is no less thick thanks to the 
leaden winter sky. Then something about the black dripping from 
the black boughs, something in that line. The black slush of leaves 
slowed me down even more. But leaves or no leaves I would have 
abandoned erect motion, that of man. And I still remember the 
day when, flat on my face by way of rest, in defiance of the rules, 
I suddenly cried, striking my brow, Christ, there’s crawling, I never 
thought of that. But could I crawl, with my legs in such a state, and 
my trunk? And my head. But before I go on, a word about the 
forest murmurs. It was in vain I listened, I could hear nothing of 
the kind. But rather, with much goodwill and a little imagination, 
at long intervals a distant gong. A horn goes well with the forest, 
you expect it. It is the huntsman. But a gong! Even a tom-tom, 
at a pinch, would not have shocked me. But a gong ! It was mortify- 
ing, to have been looking forward to the celebrated murmurs if to 
nothing else, and to succeed only in hearing, at long intervals, in 
the far distance, a gong. For a moment I dared hope it was only 
my heart, still beating. But only for a moment. For it does not beat, 
not my heart, I’d have to refer you to hydraulics for the squelch 
that old pump makes. To the leaves too I listened, before their 
fall, attentively in vain. They made no sound, motionless and rigid, 
like brass, have I said that before? So much for the forest mur- 
murs. From time to time I blew my horn, through the cloth in my 
pocket. Its hoot was fainter every time. I had taken it off my bicycle. 
When? I don’t know. And now, let us have done. Flat on my belly, 
using my crutches like grapnels, I plunged them ahead of me into 
the undergrowth, and when I felt they had a hold, I pulled myself 
forward, with an effort of the wrists. For my wrists were still quite 
strong, fortunately, in spite of my decrepitude, though all swollen 
and Tacked by a kind of chronic arthritis probably. That then 
briefly is how I went about it. The advantage of this mode of loco- 
motion compared to others, I mean those I have tried, is this, that 
when you want to rest you stop and rest, without further ado. For 
standing there is no rest, nor sitting either. And there are men who 



move about sitting, and even kneeling, hauling themselves to right 
and left, forward and backward, with the help of hooks. But he 
who moves in this way, crawling on his belly, like a reptile, no 
sooner comes to rest than he begins to rest, and even the very 
movement is a kind of rest, compared to other movements, I mean 
those that have worn me out. And in this way I moved onward in 
the forest, slowly, but with a certain regularity, and I covered my 
fifteen paces, day in, day out, without killing myself. And I even 
crawled on my back, plunging my crutches blindly behind me into 
the thickets-, and with the black boughs for sky to my closing eyes. 
I was on my way to mother. And from time to time I said. Mother, 
to encourage me I suppose. I kept losing my hat, the lace had 
broken long ago, until in a fit of temper I banged it down on my 
skull with such violence that I couldn’t get it off again. And if I 
had met any lady friends, if I had had any lady friends, I would 
have been powerless to salute them correctly. But there was always 
present to my mind, which was still working, if laboriously, the 
need to turn, to keep on turning, and every three or four jerks I 
altered course, which permitted me to describe, if not a circle, at 
least a great polygon, perfection is not of this world, and to hope 
that I was going forward in a straight line, in spite of everything, 
day and night, towards my mother. And true enough the day came 
when the forest ended and I saw the light, the light of the plain, 
exactly as I had foreseen. But I did not see it from afar, trembling 
beyond the harsh trunks, as I had foreseen, but suddenly I was in 
it, I opened my eyes and saw I had arrived. And the reason for 
that was probably this, that for some time past I had not opened 
my eyes, or seldom. And even my little changes of course were 
made blindly, in the dark. The forest ended in a ditch, I don’t know 
why, and it was in this ditch that I became aware of what had 
happened to me. I suppose it v/as the fall into the ditch that opened 
my eyes, for why would they have opened otherwise? I looked at 
the plain rolling away as far as the eye could see. No, not quite 
so far as that. For my eyes having got used to the light I fancied 
I saw, faintly outlined against the horizon, the towers and steeples of 
a town, which of course I could not assume was mine, on such slight 
evidence. It is true the pla^n seemed familiar, but in my region all 



the plains looked alike, when you knew one you knew them all. 
In any case, whether it was my town or not, whether somewhere 
under that faint haze my mother panted on, or whether she 
poisoned the air a hundred miles away, were ludicrously idle ques- 
tions for a man in my position, though of undeniable interest on 
the plane of pure knowledge. For how could I drag myself over 
that vast moor, where my crutches would fumble in vain. Rolling 
perhaps. And then? Would they let me roll on to my mother’s 
door? Fortunately for me at this painful juncture, which I had 
vaguely foreseen, but not in all its bitterness, I heard a voice telling 
me not to fret, that help was coming. Literally. These words struck 
it is not too much to say as clearly on my ear, and on my under- 
standing, as the urchin’s thanks I suppose when I stooped and 
picked up his marble. Don’t fret, Molloy, we’re coming. Well, I 
suppose you have to try everything once, succour included, to get 
a complete picture of the resources of their planet. I lapsed down 
to the bottom of the ditch. It must have been spring, a morning 
in spring. I thought I heard birds, skylarks perhaps. I had not 
heard a bird for a long time. How was it I had not heard any in 
the forest? Nor seen any. It had not seemed strange to me. Had 
I heard any at the seaside? Mews? I could not remember. I remem- 
bered the corn-crakes. The two travellers came back to my memory. 
One had a club. I had forgotten them. I saw the sheep again. Or so 
I say now. I did not fret, other scenes of my life came back to me. 
There seemed to be rain, then sunshine, turn about. Real spring 
weather. I longed to go back into the forest. Oh not a real longing. 
Molloy could stay, where he happened to be. 


It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. I am calm. 
All is sleeping. Nevertheless I get up and go to my desk. I can’t 
sleep. My lamp sheds a soft and steady light. I have trimmed it. 
It will last till morning. I hear the eagle-owl. What a terrible battle- 
cry! Once I listened to it unmoved. My son is sleeping. Let him 
sleep. The night will come when he too. unable to sleep, will get 
up and go to his desk. I shall be forgotten. 

My report will be long. Perhaps I shall not finish it. My name 
is Moran, Jacques. That is the name I am known by. I am done 
for. My son too. All unsuspecting. He must think he’s on the 
threshold of life, of real life. He’s right there. His name is Jacques, 
like mine. This cannot lead to confusion. 

I remember the day I received the order to see about Molloy. 
It was a Sunday in summer. I was sitting in my little garden, in a 
wicker chair, a black book closed on my knees. It must have been 
about eleven o’clock, still too early to go to church. I was savour- 
ing the day of rest, while deploring the importance attached to it, 
in certain parishes. To work, even to play on Sunday, was not of 
necessity reprehensible, in my opinion. It all depended on the state 



of mind of him who worked, or played, and on the nature of his 
work, of his play, in my opinion. I was reflecting with satisfaction 
on this, that this slightly libertarian view was gaining ground, even 
among the clergy, more and more disposed to admit that the sab- 
bath, so long as you go to mass and contribute to the collection, 
may be considered a day like any other, in certain respects. This 
did not affect me personally. I’ve always loved doing nothing. And 
I would gladly have rested on weekdays too, if I could have afforded 
it. Not that I was positively lazy. It was something else. Seeing 
something done which I could tthve done better myself, if I had 
wished, and which I did do better whenever I put my mind to it, 
I had the impression of discharging a function to which no form of 
activity could have exalted me. But this was a joy in which, during 
the week, I could seldom indulge. 

The weather was fine. I watched absently the coming and going 
of my bees. I heard on the gravel the scampering steps of my son, 
caught up in I know not what fantasy of flight and pursuit. I called 
to him not to dirty himself. He did not answer. 

All was still. Not a breath. From my neighbours’ chimneys 
the smoke rose straight and blue. None but tranquil sounds, the 
clicking of mallet and ball, a rake on pebbles, a distant lawn-mower, 
the bell of my beloved church. And birds of course, blackbird and 
thrush, their song sadly dying, vanquished by the heat, and leaving 
dawn’s high boughs for the bushes’ gloom. Contentedly I inhaled 
the scent of my lemon-verbena. 

In such surroundings slipped away my last moments of peace 
and happiness. 

A man came into the garden and walked swiftly towards me. 
I knew him well. Now I have no insuperable objection to a neigh- 
bour’s dropping in, on a Sunday, to pay his respects, if he feels the 
need, though I much prefer to see nobody. But this man was not a 
neighbor Our dealings were strictly of a business nature and he 
had journeyed from afar, on purpose to disturb me. So I was dis- 
posed to receive him frostily enough, all the more so as he had the 
impertinence to come straight to where I was sitting, under my 
Beauty of Bath. With people who took this liberty I had no 
patience. If they wished to speak to ml they had only to ring at 



the door of my house. Martha had her instructions. I thought I 
was hidden from anybody coming into my grounds and following 
the short path which led from the garden-gate to the front door, 
and in fact I must have been. But at the noise of the gate being 
slammed I turned angrily and saw, blurred by the leaves, this high 
mass bearing down on me, across the lawn. I neither got up nor 
invited him to sit down. He stopped in front of me and we stared 
at each other in silence. He was dressed in his heavy, sombre 
Sunday best, and at this my displeasure knew no bounds. This 
gross external observance, while the soul exults in its rags, has 
always appeared to me an abomination. I watched the enormous 
feet crushing my daisies. I would gladly have driven him away, 
with a knout. Unfortunately it was not he who mattered. Sit down, 
I said, mollified by the reflection that after all he was only acting 
his part of go-between. Yes, suddenly I had pity on him, pity on 
myself. He sat down and mopped his forehead. 1 caught a glimpse 
of my son spying on us from behind a bush. My son was thirteen 
or fourteen at the time. He was big and strong for his age. His 
intelligence seemed at times a little short of average. My son, in fact. 
I called him and ordered him to go and fetch some beer. Peeping 
and prying were part of my profession. My son imitated me in- 
stinctively. He returned after a remarkably short interval with two 
glasses and a quart bottle of beer. He uncorked the bottle and 
served us. He was very fond of uncorking bottles. I told him to 
go and wash himself, to straighten his clothes, in a word, to get 
ready to appear in public, for it would soon be time for mass. 
He can stay, said Gaber. I don’t wish him to stay, I said. And 
turning to my son I told him again to go and get ready. If there 
was one thing displeased me, at that time, it was being late for the 
last mass. Please yourself, said Gaber. Jacques went away grumb- 
ling with his finger in his mouth, a detestable and unhygienic habit, 
but preferable, all things considered, to that of the finger in the 
nose, in my opinion. If putting his finger in his mouth prevented 
my son from putting it in his nose, or elsewhere, he was right to 
do it, in a sense. 

Here are your instructions, said Gaber. He took a notebook 
from his pocket and began to read. Every now and then he closed 



the notebook, taking care to leave his finger in it as a marker, and 
indulged in comments and observations of which I had no need, for 
I knew my business. When at last he had finished I told him the 
job did not interest me and that the chief would do better to call 
on another agent. He wants it to be you, God knows why, said 
Gaber. I presume he told you why, I said, scenting flattery, for 
which I had a weakness. He said, replied Gaber, that no one could 
do it but you. This was more or less what I wanted to hear. And 
yet. I said, the affair seems childishly simple. Gaber began bitterly 
to inveigh against our employer, who had made him get up in the 
middle of the night, just as he was getting into position to make 
love to his wife. For this kind of nonsense, he added. And he 
said he had confidence in no one but me? I said. He doesn’t know 
what he says, said Gaber. He added. Nor what he does. He wiped 
the lining of his bowler, peering inside as if in search of something. 
In that case it’s hard for me to refuse, I said, knowing perfectly 
well that in any case it was impossible for me to refuse. Refuse! 
But we agents often amused ourselves with grumbling among our- 
selves and giving ourselves the airs of free men. You leave 
today, said Gaber. Today! I cried, but he’s out of his mind! 
Your son goes with you, said Gaber. I said no more. When 
it came to the point we said no more. Gaber buttoned his 
notebook and put it back in his pocket, which he also buttoned. 
He stood up, rubbing his hands over his chest. I could do with 
another beer, he said. Go to the kitchen, I said, the maid will serve 
you. Goodbye, Moran, he said. 

It was too late for mass. I did not need to consult my watch 
to know, I could feel mass had begun without me. I who never 
missed mass, to have missed it on that Sunday of all Sundays! 
When I so needed it! To buck me up! I decided to ask for a 
private communion, in the course of the afternoon. I would go 
withoi.; lunch. Father Ambrose was always very kind and accom- 

I called Jacques. Without result. I said. Seeing me still in 
conference he has gone to mass alone. This explanation turned out 
subsequently to be the correct one. But I added. He might have 
come and seen me before leaving. I likSd thinking in monologue 



and then my lips moved visibly. But no doubt he was afraid of 
disturbing me and of being reprimanded. For I was sometimes 
inclined to go too far when I reprimanded my son, who was con- 
sequently a little afraid of me. I myself had never been sufficiently 
chastened. Oh I had not been spoiled either, merely neglected. 
Whence bad habits ingrained beyond remedy and of which even 
the most meticulous piety has never been able to break me. I 
hoped to spare my son this misfortune, by giving him a good clout 
from time to time, together with my reasons for doing so. Then 
I said. Is he barefaced enough to tell me, on his return, that he 
has been to mass if he has not, if for example he has merely run 
off to join his little friends, behind the slaughter-house? And I 
determined to get the truth out of Father Ambrose, on this subject. 
For it was imperative my son should not imagine he was capable 
of lying to me with impunity. And if Father Ambrose could not 
enlighten me. I would apply to the verger, whose vigilance it was 
inconceivable that the presence of my son at twelve o’clock mass 
had escaped. For I knew for a fact that the verger had a list of the 
faithful and that, from his place beside the font, he ticked us off 
when it came to the absolution. It is only fair to say that Father 
Ambrose knew nothing of these manoeuvres, yes, anything in the 
nature of surveillance was hateful to the good Father Ambrose. 
And he would have sent the verger flying about his business if 
he had suspected him of such a work of supererogation. It must 
have been for his own edification that the verger kept this register, 
with such assiduity. Admittedly I knew only what went on at the 
mass, having no experience personally of the other offices, for the 
good reason that I never went within a mile of them. But I had 
heard it said that they were the occasion of exactly the same super- 
vision, at the hands either of the verger himself or, when his duties 
called him elsewhere, of one of his sons. A strange parish whose 
flock knew more than its pastor of a circumstance which seemed 
rather in his province than in theirs. 

Such were my thoughts as I waited for my son to come back 
and Gaber, whom I had not yet heard leave, to go. And tonight 
I find it strange I could have thought of such things, I mean my 
son, my lack of breeding. Father Ambrose, Verger Joly with his 
register, at such a time. Had I not something better to do, after 



what I had just heard? The fact is I had not yet begun to take 
the matter seriously. And I am all the more surprised as such light- 
mindedness was not like me. Or was it in order to win a few more 
moments of peace that I instinctively avoided giving my mind to 
it? Even if, as set forth in Gaber’s report, the affair had seemed un- 
worthy of me, the chief’s insistence on having me, me Moran, 
rather than anybody else, ought to have warned me that it was 
no ordinary one. And instead of bringing to bear upon it without 
delay all the resources of my mind and of my experience, I sat 
dreaming of my breed’s infirmities and the singularities of those 
about me. And yet the poison was already acting on me, the 
poison I had just been given. I stirred restlessly in my arm-chair, 
ran my hands over my face, crossed and uncrossed my legs, and 
so on. The colour and weight of the world were changing already, 
soon I would have to admit I was anxious. 

I remembered with annoyance the lager I had just absorbed. 
Would I be granted the body of Christ after a pint of Wallenstein? 
And if I said nothing? Have you come fasting, my son? He would 
not ask. But God would know, sooner or later. Perhaps he would 
pardon me. But would the eucharist produce the same effect, taken 
on top of beer, however light? I could always try. What was the 
teaching of the Church on the matter? What if I were about to 
commit sacrilege? I decided to suck a few peppermints on the way 
to the presbytery. 

I got up and went to the kitchen. I asked if Jacques was 
back. I haven’t seen him, said Martha. She seemed in bad humour. 
And the man? I said. What man? she said. The man who came 
for a glass of beer, 1 said. No one came for anything, said Martha. 
By the way, I said, unperturbed apparently, I shall not eat lunch 
today. She asked if I were ill. For I was naturally a rather heavy 
eater. And my Sunday midday meal especially I always liked 
extremely copious. It smelt good in the kitchen. I shall lunch a 
little la, r today, that’s all, I said. Martha looked at me furiously. 
Say four o’clock, I said. In that wizened, grey, skull what 
raging and rampaging then, I knew. You will not go out today, 
I said coldly, I regret. She flung herself at her pots and pans, 
dumb with anger. You will keep all that hot for me, I said. 



as best you can. And knowing her capable of poisoning me I 
added. You can have the whole day off tomorrow, if that is any 
good to you. 

I left her and went out on the road. So Gaber had gone without 
his beer. And yet he had wanted it badly. It was a good brand, 
Wallenstein. I stood there on the watch for Jacques. Coming from 
church he would appear on my right, on my left if he came from 
the slaughter-house. A neighbour passed. A free-thinker. Well, 
well, he said, no worship today? He knew my habits, my Sunday 
habits I mean. Everyone knew \hem and the chief perhaps better 
than any, in spite of his remoteness. You look as if you had seen 
a ghost, said the neighbour. Worse than that, I said, you. I went in, 
at my back the dutifully hideous smile. I could see him running 
to his concubine with the news. You know that poor bastard 
Moran, you should have heard me, I had him lepping! Couldn’t 
speak! Took to his heels! 

Jacques came back soon afterwards. No trace of frolic. He 
said he had been to church alone. 1 asked him a few pertinent 
questions concerning the march of the ceremony. His answers were 
plausible. I told him to wash his hands and sit down to his lunch. 
I went back to the kitchen. I did nothing but go to and fro. You 
may dish up, I said. She had wept. I peered into the pots. Irish 
stew. A nourishing and economical dish, if a little indigestible. 
All honour to the land it has brought before the world. I shall 
sit down at four o’clock, I said. I did not need to add sharp. I 
liked punctuality, all those whom my roof sheltered had to like 
it too. I went up to my room. And there, stretched on my bed, 
the curtains drawn, I made a first attempt to grasp the Molloy affair. 

My concern at first was only with its immediate vexations 
and the preparations they demanded of me. The kernel of the affair 
I continued to shirk. I felt a great confusion coming over me. 

Should I set out on my autocycle? This was the question with 
which I began. I had a methodical mind and never set out on a 
mission without prolonged reflection as to the best way of setting 
out. It was the first problem to solve, at the outset of each enquiry, 
and I never moved until I had solved it to my satisfaction. Some- 
times I took my autocycle, sometimes the train, sometimes the 



motor-coach, just as sometimes too I left on foot, or on my bicycle, 
silently, in the night. For when you are beset with enemies, as I 
am, you cannot leave on your autocycle, even in the night, without 
being noticed, unless you employ it as an ordinary bicycle, which 
is absurd. But if I was in the habit of first settling this delicate 
question of transport, it was never without having, if not fully 
sifted, at least taken into account the factors on which it depended. 
For how can you decide on the way of setting out if you do not 
first know where you are going, or at least with what purpose 
you are going there? But in the .present case I was tackling the 
problem of transport with no other preparation than the languid 
cognizance I had taken of Gaber’s report. I would be able to 
recover the minutest details of this report when I wished. But 
I had not yet troubled to do so, I had avoided doing so, saying. 
The affair is banal. To try and solve the problem of transport 
under such conditions was madness. Yet that was what I was 
doing. I was losing my head already. 

I liked leaving on my autocycle, I was partial to this way of 
getting about. And in my ignorance of the reasons against it I 
decided to leave on my autocycle. Thus was inscribed, on the 
threshold of the Molloy affair, the fatal pleasure principle. 

The sun’s beams shone through the rift in the curtains and 
made visible the sabbath of the motes. I concluded from this that 
the weather was still fine and rejoiced. When you leave on your 
autocycle fine weather is to be preferred. I was wrong, the weather 
was fine no longer, the sky was clouding over, soon it would rain. 
But for the moment the sun was still shining. It was on this that 
I went, with inconceivable levity, having nothing else to go on. 

Next I attacked, according to my custom, the capital question 
of the effects to take with me. And on this subject too I should 
have com** , to a quite otiose decision but for my son, who burst 
in wanting to know if he might go out. I controlled myself. He 
was wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, a thing I do not 
like to see. But there are nastier gestures, I speak from experience. 

Out? I said. Where? Out! Vagueness I abhor. I was begin- 
ning to feel hungry. To the Elms, he replied. So we call our little 
public park. And yet there is not an elm to be seen in it. I have 



been told. What for? I said. To go over my botany, he replied. 
There were times I suspected my son of deceit. This was one. 
I would almost have preferred him to say. For a walk, or. To look 
at the tarts. The trouble was he knew far more than I, about 
botany. Otherwise I could have set him a few teasers, on his 
return. Personally I just liked plants, in all innocence and simplicity. 
I even saw in them at times a superfetatory proof of the existence 
of God. Go, I said, but be back at half-past four, I want to talk 
to you. Yes papa, he said. Yes papa! Ah! 

I slept a little. Faster, fastir. Passing the church, something 
made me stop. I looked at the door, baroque, very fine. I found 
it hideous. I hastened on to the presbytery. The Father is sleeping, 
said the servant. I can wait, I said. Is it urgent? she said. Yes 
and no, I said. She showed me into the sitting-room, bare and 
bleak, dreadful. Father Ambrose came in, rubbing his eyes. I 
disturb you. Father, I said. He clicked his tongue against the roof 
of his mouth, protestingly. I shall not describe our attitudes, 
characteristic his of him, mine of me. He offered me a cigar which 
I accepted with good grace and put in my pocket, between my 
fountain-pen and my propelling-pencil. He flattered himself. Father 
Ambrose, with being a man of the world and knowing its ways, 
he who never smoked. And everyone said he was most broad. I 
asked him if he had noticed my son at the last mass. Certainly, he 
said, we even spoke together. I must have looked surprised. Yes, 
he said, not seeing you at your place, in the front row, I feared 
you were ill. So I called for the dear child, who reassured me. A 
most untimely visitor, I said, whom I could not shake off in time. 
So your son explained to me, he said. He added. But let us sit 
down, we have no train to catch. He laughed and sat down, hitch- 
ing up his heavy cassock. May I offer you a little glass of some- 
thing? he said. I was in a quandary. Had Jacques let slip an allusion 
to the lager. He was quite capable of it. I came to ask you a favour, 
I said. Granted, he said. We observed each other. It’s this, I said, 
Sunday for me without the Body and Blood is like — . He raised 
his hand. Above all no profane comparisons, he said. Perhaps he 
was thinking of the kiss without a moustache or beef without 
mustard. I dislike being interrupted. I sulked. Say no more, he 



said, a wink is as good as a nod, you want communion. I bowed 
my head. It’s a little unusual, he said. I wondered if he had fed. I 
knew he was given to prolonged fasts, by way of mortification 
certainly, and then because his doctor advised it. Thus he killed 
two birds with one stone. Not a word to a soul, he said, let it 
remain between us and — . He broke off, raising a finger, and his 
eyes, to the ceiling. Heavens, he said, what is that stain? I looked 
in turn at the ceiling. Damp, I said. Tut tut, he said, how annoying. 
The words tut tut seemed to me the maddest I had heard. There 
are times, he said, when one feols like weeping. He got up. I’ll 
go and get my kit, he said. He called that his kit. Alone, my hands 
clasped until it seemed my knuckles would crack, I asked the Lord 
for guidance. Without result. That was some consolation. As for 
Father Ambrose, in view of his alacrity to fetch his kit, it seemed 
evident to me he suspected nothing. Or did it amuse him to see 
how far I would go? Or did it tickle him to have me commit a 
sin? I summarised the situation briefly as follows. If knowing I 
have beer taken he gives me the sacrament, his sin, if sin there be, 
is as great as mine. I was therefore risking little. He came back with 
a kind of portable pyx, opened it, and dispatched me without an 
instant’s hesitation. I rose and thanked him warmly. Pah ! he said, 
it’s nothing. Now we can talk. 

I had nothing else to say to him. All I wanted was to return 
home as quickly as possible and stuff myself with stew. My soul 
appeased, I was ravenous. But being slightly in advance of my 
schedule I resigned myself to allowing him eight minutes. They 
seemed endless. He informed me that Mrs Clement, the chemist’s 
wife and herself a highly qualified chemist, had fallen, in her 
laboratory, from the top of a ladder, and broken the neck — . The 
neck! I cried. Of her femur, he said, can’t you let me finish. He 
added that it was bound to happen. And I, not to be outdone, 
told him how worried I was about my hens, particularly my grey 
hen, which would neither brood nor lay and for the past month 
and more had done nothing but sit with her arse in the dust, from 
morning to night. Like Job, haha, he said. I too said haha. What 
a joy it is to laugh, from time to time, he said. Is it not? I 
said. It is peculiar to man, he said. So I have noticed, I said. 



A brief silence ensued. What do you feed her on? he said. Com 
chiefly, I said. Cooked or raw? he said. Both, I said. I added 
that she ate nothing any more. Nothing ! he cried. Next to nothing, 
I said. Animals never laugh, he said. It takes us to find that funny, 
I said. What? he said. It takes us to find that funny, I said loudly. 
He mused. Christ never laughed either, he said, so far as we know. 
He looked at me. Can you wonder? I said. There it is, he said. 
He smiled sadly. She has not the pip, I hope, he said. I said she 
had not, certainly not, anything he liked, but not the pip. He 
meditated. .Have you tried bicarbonate? he said. I beg your par- 
don? I said. Bicarbonate of soda, he said, have you tried it? Why 
no, I said. Try it! he cried, flushing with pleasure, have her 
swallow a few dessertspoonfuls, several times a day, for a few 
months. You’ll see, you won’t know her. A powder? I said. Bless 
my heart to be sure, he said. Many thanks, I said. I’ll begin today. 
Such a fine hen, he said, such a good layer. Or rather tomorrow, 
I said. I had forgotten the chemist was closed. Except in case of 
emergency. And now that little cordial, he said, I declined. 

This interview with Father Ambrose left me with a painful 
impression. He was still the same dear man, and yet not. I seemed 
to have surprised, on his face, a lack, how shall I say, a lack of 
nobility. The host, it is only fair to say, was lying heavy on my 
stomach. And as I made my way home I felt like one who, having 
swallowed a pain-killer, is first astonished, then indignant, on ob- 
taining no relief. And I was almost ready to suspect Father Am- 
brose, alive to my excesses of the forenoon, of having fobbed me 
off with unconsccrated bread. Or of mental reservation as he pro- 
nounced the magic words. And it was in vile humour that I arrived 
home, in the pelting rain. 

The stew was a great disappointment. Where are the onions? 
I cried. Gone to nothing, replied Martha. I rushed into the kitchen, 
to look for the onions I suspected her of having removed from the 
pot, because she knew how much I liked them. I even rummaged 
in the bin. Nothing. She watched me mockingly. 

I went up to my room again, drew back the curtains on a 
calamitous sky and lay down. I could not understand what was 
happening to me. I found it painful at that period not to under- 



stand. I tried to pull myself together. In vain. I might have known. 
My life was running out, I knew not through what breach. I suc- 
ceeded however in dozing off, which is not so easy, when pain is 
speculative. And I was marvelling, in that half-sleep, at my half- 
sleeping, when my son came in, without knocking. Now if there 
is one thing I abhor, it is someone coming into my room, without 
knocking. I might just happen to be masturbating, before my 
cheval-glass. Father with yawning fly and starting eyes, toiling to 
scatter on the ground his joyless seed, that was no sight for a small 
boy. Harshly I recalled him to the proprieties. He protested he 
had knocked twice. If you had knocked a hundred times, I replied, 
it would not give you the right to come in without being invited. 
But, he said. But what? I said. You told me to be here at half- 
past four, he said. There is something, I said, more important in 
life than punctuality, and that is decorum. Repeat. In that disdain- 
ful mouth my phrase put me to shame. He was soaked. What 
have you been looking at? I said. The liliaceae, papa, he answered. 
The liliaceae papa! My son had a way of saying papa, when he 
wanted to hurt me, that was very special. Now listen to me, I said. 
His face took on an expression of anguished attention. We leave 
this evening, I said in substance, on a journey. Put on your school 
suit, the green — . But it’s blue, papa, he said. Blue or green, put 
it on, I said violently. I went on. Put in your little knapsack, the 
one I gave you for your birthday, your toilet things, one shirt, 
one pair of socks and seven pairs of drawers. Do you understand? 
Which shirt, papa? he said. It doesn’t matter which shirt, I cried, 
any shirt! Which shoes am I to wear? he said. You have two pairs 
of shoes, I said, one for Sundays, and one for weekdays, and you 
ask me which you are to wear. I sat up. I want none of your lip, 
I said. 

Thus to my son I gave precise instructions. But were they the 
right one c ? Would they stand the test of second thoughts? Would 
I not be impelled, in a very short time, to cancel them? I who 
never changed my mind before my son. The worst was to be feared. 

Where are we going, papa? he said. How often had 1 told 
him not to ask me questions. And where were we going, in point 
of fact. Do as you’re told, I said. I have an appointment with Mr 



Py tomorrow, he said. You’ll see him another day, I said. But I 
have an ache, he said. There exist other dentists, I said, Mr Py 
is not the unique dentist of the northern hemisphere. I added 
rashly. We are not going into the wilderness. But he’s a very good 
dentist, he said. All dentists are alike, I said. I could have told him 
to get to hell out of that with his dentist, but no, I reasoned gently 
with him, I spoke with him as with an equal. I could furthermore 
have pointed out to him that he was lying when he said he had an 
ache. He did have an ache, in a bicuspid I believe, but it was over. 
Py himself had told me so. I haVe dressed the tooth, he said, your 
son cannot possibly feel any more pain. I remembered this con- 
versation well. He has naturally very bad teeth, said Py. Naturally, 
I said, what do you mean, naturally? What are you insinuating? 
He was born with bad teeth, said Py, and all his life he will have 
bad teeth. Naturally I shall do what I can. Meaning, I was bom 
with the disposition to do all I can, all my life I shall do all I can, 
necessarily. Bom with bad teeth! As for me, I was down to my 
incisors, the nippers. 

Is it still raining? I said. My son had drawn a small glass from 
his pocket and was examining the inside of his mouth, prising 
away his upper lip with his finger. Aaw, he said, without inter- 
rupting his inspection. Stop messing about with your mouth! I 
cried. Go to the window and tell me if it’s still raining. He 
went to the window and told me it was still raining. Is the sky 
completely overcast? I said. Yes, he said. Not the least rift? I 
said. No, he said. Draw the curtains, I said. Delicious instants, 
before one’s eyes get used to the dark. Are you still there? I said. 
He was still there. I asked him what he was waiting for to do as 
I had told him. If I had been my son I would have left me 
long ago. He was not worthy of me, not in the same class at all. 
I could not escape this conclusion. Cold comfort that is, to feel 
superior to one’s son, and hardly sufficient to calm the remorse 
of having begotten him. May I bring my stamps? he said. My son 
had two albums, a big one for his collection properly speaking 
and a small one for the duplicates. I authorised him to bring the 
latter. When I can give pleasure, without doing violence to my 
principles, I do so gladly. He withdrew. 



I got up and went to the window. I could not keep still. I 
passed my head between the curtains. Fine rain, lowering sky. He 
had not lied to me. Likely to lift round about eight. Fine sunset, 
twilight, night. Waning moon, rising towards midnight. I rang for 
Martha and lay down again. We shall dine at home, I said. 
She looked at me in astonishment. Did we not always dine at 
home? I had not yet told her we were leaving. I would not 
tell her till the last moment, one foot in the stirrup as the 
saying is. I did not wholly trust her. I would call her at the last 
moment and say, Martha, we’re leaving, for one day, two days, 
three days, a week, two weeks, God knows, goodbye. It was im- 
portant to leave her in the dark. Then why had I called her? She 
would have served us dinner in any case, as she did every day. 
I had made the mistake of putting myself in her place. That was 
understandable. But to tell her we would dine at home, what a 
blunder. For she knew it already, thought she knew, did know. 
And as a result of this useless reminder she would sense that some- 
thing was afoot and spy on us, in the hope of learning what it was. 
First mistake. The second, first in time, was my not having enjoined 
my son to keep what I had told him to himself. Not that this 
would have served any purpose. Nevertheless I should have in- 
sisted on it, as due to myself. I was floundering. I so sly as a rule. 
I tried to mend matters, saying, A little later than usual, not before 
nine. She turned to go, her simple mind already in a turmoil. I 
am at home to no one, I said. I knew what she would do, she 
would throw a sack over her shoulders and slip off to the bottom 
of the garden. There she would call Hannah, the old cook of the 
Eisner sisters, and they would whisper together for a long time, 
through the railings. Hannah never went out, she did not like 
going out. The Eisner sisters were not bad neighbours, as neigh- 
bours go. They made a little too much music, that was the only 
fault I cr ild find with them. If there is one thing gets on my nerves 
it is music. What I assert, deny, question, in the present, I still can. 
But mostly I shall use the various tenses of the past. For mostly I 
do not know, it is perhaps no longer so, it is too soon to know, I 
simply do not know, perhaps shall never know. I thought a little of 
the Eisner sisters. Everything remained to be planned and there 



I was thinking of the Eisner sisters. They had an aberdeen called 
Zulu. People called it Zulu. Sometimes, when I was in a good 
humour, I called, Zulu ! Little Zulu ! and he would come and talk 
to me, through the railings. But I had to be feeling gay. I don’t like 
animals. It’s a strange thing, I don’t like men and I don’t like 
animals. As for God, he is beginning to disgust me. Crouching down 
I would stroke his ears, through the railings, and utter wheedling 
words. He did not realise he disgusted me. He reared up on his 
hind legs and pressed his chest against the bars. Then I could see 
his little- black penis ending in a thin wisp of wetted hair. He felt 
insecure, his hams trembled, his little paws fumbled for purchase, 
one after the other. I too wobbled, squatting on my heels. With my 
free hand I held on to the railings. Perhaps I disgusted him too. 
I found it hard to tear myself away from these vain thoughts. 

I wondered, suddenly rebellious, what compelled me to accept 
this commission. But I had already accepted it, I had given my 
word. Too late. Honour. It did not take me long to gild my 

But could I not postpone our departure to the following day? 
Or leave alone? Ah shilly-shally. But we would wait till the very 
last moment, a little before midnight. This decision is irrevocable, 
I said. It was justified moreover by the state of the moon. 

I did as when I could not sleep. I wandered in my mind, 
slowly, noting every detail of the labyrinth, its paths as familiar 
as those of my garden and yet ever new, as empty as the heart 
could wish or alive with strange encounters. And I heard the distant 
cymbals. There is still time, still time. But there was not, for I 
ceased, all vanished and I tried once more to turn my thoughts 
to the Molloy affair. Unfathomable mind, now beacon, now sea. 

The agent and the messenger. We agents never took anything 
in writing. Gaber was not an agent in the sense I was. Gaber was 
a messenger. He was therefore entitled to a notebook. A messenger 
had to be possessed of singular qualities, good messengers were 
even more rare than good agents. I who was an excellent agent 
would have made but a sorry messenger. I often regretted it. Gaber 
was protected in numerous ways. He used a code incomprehensible 
to all but himself. Each messenger, before being appointed, had to 



submit his code to the directorate. Gaber understood nothing about 
the messages he carried. Reflecting on them he arrived at the 
most extravagantly false conclusions. Yes, it was not enough for 
him to understand nothing about them, he had also to believe he 
understood everything about them. This was not all. His memory 
was so bad that his messages had no existence in his head, but 
only in his notebook. He had only to close his notebook to become, 
a moment later, perfectly innocent as to its contents. And when I 
say that he reflected on his messages and drew conclusions from 
them, it was not as we would hdVe reflected on them, you and I, 
the book closed and probably the eyes too, but little by little as he 
read. And when he raised his head and indulged in his commen- 
taries, it was without losing a second, for if he had lost a second 
he would have forgotten everything, both text and gloss. I have 
often wondered if the messengers were not compelled to undergo 
a surgical operation, to induce in them such a degree of amnesia. 
But I think not. For otherwise their memory was good enough. 
And I have heard Gaber speak of his childhood, and of his family, 
in extremely plausible terms. To be undecipherable to all but one- 
self, dead without knowing it to the meaning of one’s instructions 
and incapable of remembering them for more than a few seconds, 
these are capacities rarely united in the same individual. No less 
however was demanded of our messengers. And that they were more 
highly esteemed than the agents, whose qualities were sound rather 
than brilliant, is shown by the fact that they received a weekly 
wage of eight pounds as against ours of six pounds ten only, these 
figures being exclusive of bonuses and travelling expenses. And 
when I speak of agents and of messengers in the plural, it is with 
no guarantee of truth. For I had never seen any other messenger 
than Gaber nor any other agent than myself. But I supposed we 
were not the only ones and Gaber must have supposed the same. 
For the feeling that we were the only ones of our kind would, 
I believe, have been more than we could have borne. And it must 
have appeared natural, to me, that each agent had his own particular 
messenger, and to Gaber that each messenger had his own particu- 
lar agent. Thus I was able to say to Gaber, Let him give this job 
to someone else, I don’t want it, and Gaber was able to reply. He 



wants it to be you. And these last words, assuming Gaber had 
not invented them especially to annoy me, had perhaps been 
uttered by the chief with the sole purpose of fostering our illusion, 
if it was one. All this is not very clear. 

That we thought of ourselves as members of a vast organisation 
was doubtless also due to the all too human feeling that trouble 
shared, or is it sorrow, is trouble something, I forget the word. 
But to me at least, who knew how to listen to the falsetto of reason, 
it was obvious that we were perhaps alone in doing what we did. 
Yes, in my moments of lucidity I thought it possible. And, to 
keep nothing from you, this lucidity was so acute at times that I 
came even to doubt the existence of Gaber himself. And if I had 
not hastily sunk back into my darkness I might have gone to the 
extreme of conjuring away the chief too and regarding myself as 
solely responsible for my wretched existence. For I knew I was 
wretched, at six pounds ten a week plus bonuses and expenses. 
And having made away with Gaber and the chief (one Youdi), 
could I have denied myself the pleasure of — you know. But I was 
not made for the great light that devours, a dim lamp was all I had 
been given, and patience without end, to shine it on the empty 
shadows. I was a solid in the midst of other solids. 

I went down to the kitchen. I did not expect to find Martha 
there, but I found her there. She was sitting in her rocking-chair, 
in the chimney-corner, rocking herself moodily. This rocking-chair, 
she would have you believe, was the only possession to which she 
clung and she would not have parted with it for an empire. It is 
interesting to note that she had installed it not in her room, but 
in the kitchen, in the chimney-corner. Late to bed and early to 
rise, it was in the kitchen that she benefited by it most. The wage- 
payers are numerous, and I was one of them, who do not like to see, 
in the place set aside for toil, the furniture of reclining and repose. 
The servant wishes to rest? Let her retire to her room. In the 
kitchen all must be of wood, white and rigid. I should mention 
that Martha had insisted, before entering my service, that I permit 
her to keep her rocking-chair in the kitchen. I had refused, indig- 
nantly. Then, seeing she was inflexible, I had yielded. I was too 



My weekly supply of lager, half-a-dozen quart bottles, was 
delivered every Saturday. I never touched them until the next day, 
for lager must be left to settle after the least disturbance. Of these 
six bottles Gaber and I, together, had emptied one. There should 
therefore be five left, plus the remains of a bottle from the previous 
week. I went into the pantry. The five bottles were there, corked 
and sealed, and one open bottle three-quarters empty. Martha 
followed me with her eyes. I left without a word to her and went 
upstairs. I did nothing but go to and fro. I went into my son’s 
room. Sitting at his little desk he Was admiring his stamps, the two 
albums, large and small, open before him. On my approach he 
shut them hastily. I saw at once what he was up to. But first I said. 
Have you got your things ready? He stood up, got his pack and 
gave it to me. I looked inside. I put my hand inside and felt 
through the contents, staring vacantly before me. Everything was 
in. I gave it back to him. What are you doing? I said. Looking at 
my stamps, he said. You call that looking at your stamps? I said. 
Yes papa, he said, with unimaginable effrontery. Silence, you little 
liar! I cried. Do you know what he was doing? Transferring to 
the album of duplicates, from his good collection properly so-called, 
certain rare and valuable stamps which he was in the habit of 
gloating over daily and could not bring himself to leave, even for 
a few days. Show me your new Timor, the five reis orange, I said. 
He hesitated. Show it to me ! I cried. I had given it to him myself, 
it had cost me a florin. A bargain, at the time. I’ve put it in here, 
he said piteously, picking up the album of duplicates. That was all 
I wanted to know, to hear him say rather, for I knew it already. 
Very good, I said. 1 went to the door. You leave both your albums 
at home, I said, the small one as well as the large one. Not a word 
of reproach, a simple prophetic present, on the model of those 
employed by Youdi. Your son goes with you. I went out. But as 
with de’lcate steps, almost mincing, congratulating myself as usual 
on the resilience of my Wilton, I followed the corridor towards my 
room, I was struck by a thought which made me go back to my 
son’s room. He was sitting in the same place, but in a slightly 
different attitude, his arms on the table and his head on his arms. 
The sight went straight to my heart, but nevertheless I did my duty. 



He did not move. To make assurance doubly sure, I said, we shall 
put the albums in the safe, until our return. He still did not move. 
Do you hear me? I said. He rose with a bound that knocked over 
his chair and uttered the furious words. Do what you like with 
them! I never want to see them again! Anger should be left to 
cool, in my opinion, crisis to pass, before one operates. I took the 
albums and withdrew, without a word. He had been lacking in 
respect, but this was not the moment to have him admit it. Motion- 
less in the corridor I heard sounds of falling and collision. Another, 
less master of himself than I of myself, would have intervened. But 
it did not positively displease me that my son should give free vent 
to his grief. It purges. Sorrow does more harm when dumb, to my 

The albums under my arm, I returned to my room. I had 
spared my son a grave temptation, that of putting in his pocket his 
most cherished stamps, in order to gloat on them, during our 
journey. Not that his having one or two stamps about him was 
reprehensible in itself. But it would have been an act of disobed- 
ience. To look at them he would have had to hide from his father. 
And when he had lost them, as he inevitably would, he would have 
been driven to lie, to account for their disappearance. No, if he 
could not really bear to be parted from the gems of his collection, 
it would have been better for him to take the entire album. For 
an album is less readily lost than a stamp. But I was a better judge 
than he of what he could and could not. For I knew what he did 
not yet know, among other things, that this ordeal would be of 
profit to him. Sollst entbehren, that was the lesson I desired to 
impress upon him, while he was still young and tender. Magic 
words which I had never dreamt, until my fifteenth year, could be 
coupled together. And should this undertaking make me odious 
in his eyes and not only me, but the very idea of fatherhood, I 
would pursue it 'none the less, with everything in my power. The 
thought that between my death and his own, ceasing for an 
instant from heaping curses on my memory, he might wonder, in 
a flash, whether I had not been right, that was enough for me, that 
repaid me for all the trouble I had taken and was still to take. He 
would answer in the negative, the first time, and resume his execra- 



tions. But the doubt would be sown. He would go back to it. 
That was how I reasoned. 

I still had a few hours left before dinner. I decided to make 
the most of them. Because after dinner I drowse. I took off my 
coat and shoes, opened my trousers and got in between the sheets. 
It is lying down, in the warmth, in the gloom, that I best pierce 
the outer turmoil’s veil, discern my quarry, sense what course to 
follow, find peace in another’s ludicrous distress. Far from the 
world, its clamours, frenzies, bitterness and dingy light, I pass 
judgement on it and on those, 4ike me, who are plunged in it 
beyond recall, and on him who has need of me to be delivered, 
who cannot deliver myself. All is dark, but with that simple dark- 
ness that follows like a balm upon the great dismemberings. From 
their places masses move, stark as laws. Masses of what? One 
does not ask. There somewhere man is too, vast conglomerate of 
all of nature’s kingdoms, as lonely and as bound. And in that block 
the prey is lodged and thinks himself a being apart. Anyone would 
serve. But I am paid to seek. I arrive, he comes away. His life has 
been nothing but a waiting for this, to see himself preferred, to 
fancy himself damned, blessed, to fancy himself everyman, 
above all others. Warmth, gloom, smells of my bed, such is the 
effect they sometimes have on me. I get up, go out, and everything 
is changed. The blood drains from my head, the noise of things 
bursting, merging, avoiding one another, assails me on all sides, 
my eyes search in vain for two things alike, each pinpoint of 
skin screams a different message, I drown in the spray of phe- 
nomena. It is at the mercy of these sensations, which happily I 
know to be illusory, that I have to live and work. It is thanks to 
them I find myself a meaning. So he whom a sudden pain awakes. 
He stiffens, ceases to breathe, waits, says. It’s a bad dream, or, it’s 
a touch of neuralgia, breathes again, sleeps again, still trembling. 
And yet J t is not unpleasant, before setting to work, to steep oneself 
again in this slow and massive world, where all things move with 
the ponderous sullenness of oxen, patiently through the immemorial 
ways, and where of course no investigation would be possible. But 
on this occasion, I repeat, on this occasion, my reasons for doing 
so were I trust more serious and imputable less to pleasure than 



to business. For it was only by transferring it to this atmosphere, 
how shall I say, of finality without end, why not, that I could 
venture to consider the work I had on hand. For where Molloy 
could not be, nor Moran either for that matter, there Moran could 
bend over Molloy. And though this examination prove unprofitable 
and of no utility for the execution of my orders, 1 should neverthe- 
less have established a kind of connection, and one not necessarily 
false. For the falsity of the terms does not necessarily imply that 
of the relation, so far as I know. And not only this, but I should 
have invested my man, from the* outset, with the air of a fabulous 
being, which something told me could not fail to help me later on. 
So I took off my coat and my shoes, I opened my trousers and I 
slipped in between the sheets, with an easy conscience, knowing 
only too well what I was doing. 

Molloy, or Mollose, was no stranger to me. If I had had 
colleagues, I might have suspected I had spoken of him to them, 
as of one destined to occupy us, sooner or later. But I had no 
colleagues and knew nothing of the circumstances in which I had 
learnt of his existence. Perhaps I had invented him, I mean found 
him ready-made in my head. There is no doubt one sometimes 
meets with strangers who are not entire strangers, through their 
having played a part in certain cerebral reels. This had never 
happened to me, I considered myself immune from such exper- 
iences, and even the simple deja vu seemed infinitely beyond my 
reach. But it was happening to me then, or 1 was greatly mistaken. 
For who could have spoken to me of Molloy if not myself and to 
whom if not to myself could I have spoken of him? I racked my 
mind in vain. For in my rare conversations with men I avoided such 
subjects. If anyone else had spoken to me of Molloy 1 would have 
requested him to stop and I myself would not have confided his 
existence to a living soul for anything in the world. If I had had 
colleagues things would naturally have been different. Among col- 
leagues one says things which in any other company one keeps 
to oneself. But I had no colleagues. And perhaps this accounts for 
the immense uneasiness I had been feeling ever since the beginning 
of this affair. For it is no small matter, for a grown man thinking 
he is done with surprises, to see himself the theatre of such igno- 



miny. I had really good cause to be alarmed. 

Mother Molloy, or Mellose, was not completely foreign to me 
either, it seemed. But she was much less alive than her son, who 
God knows was far from being so. After all perhaps I knew nothing 
of mother Molloy, or Mollose, save in so far as such a son might 
bear, like a scurf of placenta, her stamp. 

Of these two names, Molloy and Mollose, the second seemed 
to me perhaps the more correct. But barely. What I heard, in my 
soul I suppose, where the acoustics are so bad, was a first syllable. 
Mol, very clear, followed almost at once by a second, very thick, 
as though gobbled by the first, and which might have been oy as 
it might have been ose, or one, or even oc. And if I incline 
towards ose, it was doubtless that my mind had a weakness for this 
ending, whereas the others left it cold. But since Gaber had said 
Molloy, not once but several times, and each time with equal in- 
cisiveness, I was compelled to admit that I too should have said 
Molloy and that in saying Mollose I was at fault. And hencefor- 
ward, unmindful of my preferences, I shall force myself to say 
Molloy, like Gaber. That there may have been two different persons 
involved, one my own Mollose, the other the Molloy of the enquiry, 
was a thought which did not so much as cross my mind, and if it 
had I should have driven it away, as one drives away a fly, or a 
hornet. How little one is at one with oneself, good God. I who 
prided myself on being a sensible man, cold as crystal and as free 
from spurious depth. 

I knew then about Molloy, without however knowing much 
about him. I shall say briefly what little I did know about him. I 
shall also draw attention, in my knowledge of Molloy, to the most 
striking lacunae. 

He had very little room. His time too was limited. He hastened 
incessantly on, as if in despair, towards extremely close objectives. 
Now, a prisoner, he hurled himself at I know not what narrow con- 
fines, and now, hunted, he sought refuge near the centre. 

He panted. He had only to rise up within me for me to be 
filled with panting. 

Even in open country he seemed to be crashing through jungle. 
He did not so much walk as charge. In spite of this he advanced 



but slowly. He swayed, to and fro, like a bear. 

He rolled his head, uttering incomprehensible words. 

He was massive and hulking, to the point of misshapenness. 
And, without being black, of a dark colour. 

He was forever on the move. I had never seen him rest. 
Occasionally he stopped and glared furiously about him. 

This was how he came to me, at long intervals. Then I was 
nothing but uproar, bulk, rage, suffocation, effort unceasing, fren- 
zied and vain. Just the opposite of myself, in fact. It was a change. 
And when I saw him disappear, • his whole body a vociferation, I 
was almost sorry. 

What it was all about I had not the slightest idea. 

I had no clue to his age. As he appeared to me, so I felt he 
must have always appeared and would continue to appear until the 
end, an end indeed which I was hard put to imagine. For being 
unable to conceive what had brought him to such a pass, I was 
no better able to conceive how, left to his own resources, he could 
put an end to it. A natural end seemed unlikely to me, I don’t 
know why. But then my own natural end, and I was resolved 
to have no other, would it not at the same time be his? Modest, 
I had my doubts. And then again, what end is not natural, are 
they not all by the grace of nature, the undeniably good and the 
so-called bad? Idle conjectures. 

I had no information as to his face. I assumed it was hirsute, 
craggy and grimacing. Nothing justified my doing so. 

That a man like me, so meticulous and calm in the main, so 
patiently turned towards the outer world as towards the lesser 
evil, creature of his house, of his garden, of his few poor posses- 
sions, discharging faithfully and ably a revolting function, reining 
back his thoughts within the limits of the calculable so great is 
his horror of fancy, that a man so contrived, for I was a contri- 
vance, should let himself be haunted and possessed by chimeras, 
this ought to have seemed strange to me and been a warning to 
me to have a care, in my own interest. Nothing of the kind. I saw 
it only as the weakness of a solitary, a weakness admittedly to be 
deplored, but which had to be indulged in if I wished to remain a 
solitary, and I did, I clung to that, with as little enthusiasm as to 



my hens or to my faith, but no less lucidly. Besides this took up 
very little room in the inenarrable contraption I called my life, 
jeopardised it as little as my dreams and was as soon forgotten. 
Don’t wait to be hunted to hide, that was always my motto. And 
if I had to tell the story of my life I should not so much as allude 
to these apparitions, and least of all to that of the unfortunate 
Molloy. For his was a poor thing, compared to others. 

But images of this kind the will cannot revive without doing 
them violence. Much of what they had it takes away, much they 
never had it foists upon them. And the Molloy I brought to light, 
that memorable August Sunday, was certainly not the true denizen 
of my dark places, for it was not his hour. But so far as the essen- 
tial features were concerned, I was easy in my mind, the like- 
ness was there. And the discrepancy could have been still greater 
for all I cared. For what I was doing I was doing neither for Molloy, 
who mattered nothing to me, nor for myself, of whom I despaired, 
but on behalf of a cause which, while having need of us to be 
accomplished, was in its essence anonymous, and would subsist, 
haunting the minds of men, when its miserable artisans should be 
no more. It will not be said, I think, that I did not take my work 
to heart. But rather, tenderly. Ah those old craftsmen, their race 
is extinct and the mould broken. 

Two remarks. 

Between the Molloy T stalked within me thus and the true 
Molloy, after whom I was so soon to be in full cry, over hill and 
dale, the resemblance cannot have been great. 

I was annexing perhaps already, without my knowing it, to my 
private Molloy, elements of the Molloy described by Gaber. 

The fact was there were three, no, four Molloys. He that 
inhabited me, my caricature of same, Gaber's and the man of flesh 
and blood somewhere awaiting me. To these I would add Youdi’s 
were it r^t for Gaber’s corpse fidelity to the letter of his messages. 
Bad reasoning. For could it seriously be supposed that Youdi had 
confided to Gaber all he knew, or thought he knew (all one to 
Youdi) about his protege? Assuredly not. He had only revealed 
what he deemed of relevance for the prompt and proper execution 
of his orders. I will therefore add a fifth Molloy, that of Youdi. 



But would not this fifth Molloy necessarily coincide with the fourth, 
the real one as the saying is, him dogged by his shadow? I would 
have given a lot to know. There were others too, of course. But 
let us leave it at that, if you don’t mind, the party is big enough. 
And let us not meddle either with the question as to how far these 
five Molloys were constant and how far subject to variation. For 
there was this about Youdi, that he changed his mind with great 

That makes three remarks. I had only anticipated two. 

The ice thus broken, I felt equal to facing Gaber’s report and 
getting down to the official facts. It seemed as if the enquiry were 
about to start at last. 

It was then that the sound of a gong, struck with violence, 
filled the house. True enough, it was nine o’clock. I got up, adjusted 
my clothes and hurried down. To give notice that the soup was in, 
nay, that it had begun to coagulate, was always for Martha a little 
triumph and a great satisfaction. For as a rule I was at table, my 
napkin tucked into my collar, crumbling the bread, fiddling with 
the cover, playing with the knife-rest, waiting to be served, a few 
minutes before the appointed hour. 1 attacked the soup. Where is 
Jacques? I said. She shrugged her shoulders. Detestable slavish 
gesture. Tell him to come down at once, I said. The soup before 
me had stopped steaming. Had it ever steamed? She came back. 
He won’t come down, she said. I laid down my spoon. Tell me, 
Martha, I said, what is this preparation? She named it. Have I 
had it before? I said. She assured me I had. I then made a joke 
which pleased me enormously, I laughed so much I began to hiccup. 
It was lost on Martha who stared at me dazedly. Tell him to come 
down, I said at last. What? said Martha. I repeated my phrase. 
She still looked genuinely perplexed. There are three of us in this 
charming home, I said, you, my son and finally myself. What I said 
was. Tell him to come down. But he’s sick, said Martha. Were he 
dying, I said, down he must come. Anger led me sometimes to 
slight excesses of language. I could not regret them. It seemed to 
me that all language was an excess of language. Naturally I con- 
fessed them. I was short of sins. 

Jacques was scarlet in the face. Eat your soup, I said, and tell 



me what you think of it. I’m not hungry, he said. Eat your soup, 
I said. I saw he would not eat it. What ails you? I said. I don’t 
feel well, he said. What an abominable thing is youth. Try and be 
more explicit, I said. I was at pains to use this term, a little difficult 
for juveniles, having explained its meaning and application to him 
a few days before. So I had high hopes of his telling me he didn’t 
understand. But he was a cunning little fellow, in his way. Martha ! 

I bellowed. She appeared. The sequel, I said. I looked more atten- 
tively out of the window. Not only had the rain stopped, that I 
knew already, but in the west scarves of fine red sheen were mount- 
ing in the sky. I felt them rather than saw them, through my little 
wood. A great joy, it is hardly too much to say, surged over me 
at the sight of so much beauty, so much promise. I turned away 
with a sigh, for the joy inspired by beauty is often not unmixed, 
and saw in front of me what with good reason I had called the 
sequel. Now what have we here? I said. Usually on Sunday evening 
we had the cold remains of a fowl, chicken, duck, goose, turkey, 
I can think of no other fowl, from Saturday evening. I have always 
had great success with my turkeys, they are a better proposition 
than ducks, in my opinion, for rearing purposes. More delicate, 
possibly, but more remunerative, for one who knows and caters 
for their little ways, who likes them in a word and is liked by 
them in return. Shepherd’s pie, said Martha. I tasted it, from the 
dish. And what have you done with yesterday’s bird? I said. 
Martha’s face took on an expression of triumph. She was waiting 
for this question, that was obvious, she was counting on it. I 
thought, she said, you ought to eat something hot, before you left. 
And who told you I was leaving? I said. She went to the door, a 
sure sign she was about to launch a shaft. She could only be in- 
sulting when in flight. I’m not blind, she said. She opened the door. 
More’s the pity, she said. She closed the door behind her. 

I l. oked at my son. He had his mouth open and his eyes 
close t Was it you blabbed on us? I said. He pretended not to 
know what I was talking about. Did you tell Martha we were 
leaving? I said. He said he had not. And why not? I said. I didn’t 
see her, he said brazenly. But she has just been up to your room, 
I said. The pie was already made, he said. At times he was almost 



worthy of me. But he was wrong to invoke the pic. But he was still 
young and inexperienced and I refrained from humbling him. Try 
and tell me, I said, a little more precisely, what it is you feel. I’ve 
a stomach-ache, he said. A stomach-ache! Have you a tempera- 
ture? I said. I don’t know, he said. Find out, I said. He was looking 
more and more stupefied. Fortunately I rather enjoyed dotting 
my i’s. Go and get the minute-thermometer, I said, out of the second 
right-hand drawer of my desk, counting from the top, take your 
temperature and bring me the thermometer. I let a few minutes 
go by and then, without being uskcd, repeated slowly, word for 
word, this rather long and difficult sentence, which contained 
no fewer than three or four imperatives. As he went out, having 
presumably understood the gist of it, I added jocosely, You know 
which mouth to put it in? I was not averse, in conversation with 
my son, to jests of doubtful taste, in the interests of his education. 
Those whose pungency he could not fully savour at the time, and 
they must have been many, he could reflect on at his leisure or 
seek in company with his little friends to interpret as best he might. 
Which was in itself an excellent exercise. And at the same time I 
inclined his young mind towards that most fruitful of dispositions, 
horror of the body and its functions. But I had turned my phrase 
badly, mouth was not the word I should have used. It was while 
examining the shepherd’s pie more narrowly that I had this after- 
thought. I lifted the crust with my spoon and looked inside. I 
probed it with my fork. I called Martha and said. His dog wouldn’t 
touch it. I thought with a smile of my desk which had only six 
drawers in all and for all, three on each side of the space where 
I put my legs. Since your dinner is uneatable, I said, be good 
enough to prepare a packet of sandwiches, with the chicken you 
couldn’t finish. My son came back at last. That’s all the thanks 
you get for having a minute-thermometer. He handed it to me. Did 
you have time to wipe it? I said. Seeing me squint at the mercury 
he went to the door and switched on the light. How remote Youdi 
was at that instant. Sometimes in the winter, coming home harassed 
and weary after a day of fruitless errands, I would find my slippers 
warming in front of the fire, the uppers turned to the flame. He had 
a temperature. There’s nothing wrong with you, I said. May I go 



up? he said. What for? I said. To lie down, he said. Was not this 
the providential hinderance for which I could not be held res- 
ponsible? Doubtless, but I would never dare invoke it. I was not 
going to expose myself to thunderbolts which might be fatal, simply 
because my son had the gripes. If he fell seriously ill on the way, 
it would be another matter. It was not for nothing I had studied 
the old testament. Have you shat, my child, I said gently. I’ve 
tried, he said. Do you want to, I said. Yes, he said. But nothing 
comes, I said. No, he said. A little wind, I said. Yes, he said. 
Suddenly I remembered Father Ambrose’s cigar. I lit it. We’ll see 
what we can do, I said, getting up. We went upstairs. I gave him 
an enema, with salt water. He struggled, but not for long. I with- 
drew the nozzle. Try and hold it, I said, don’t stay sitting on the 
pot, lie flat on your stomach. We were in the bathroom. He lay 
down on the tiles, his big fat bottom sticking up. Let it soak well 
in, I said. What a day. I looked at the ash on my cigar. It was firm 
and blue. I sat down on the edge of the bath. The porcelain, the 
mirrors, the chromium, instilled a great peace within me. At least I 
suppose it was they. It wasn’t a great peace in any case. I got up, 
laid down my cigar and brushed my incisors. I also brushed the 
back gums. I looked at myself, puffing out my lips which normally 
recede into my mouth. What do I look like? I said. The sight of 
my moustache, as always, annoyed me. It wasn’t quite right. It 
suited me, without a moustache I was inconceivable. But it 
ought to have suited me better. A slight change in the cut 
would have sufficed. But what change ? Was there too much 
of it, not enough? Now, I said, without ceasing to inspect myself, 
get back on the pot and strain. Was it not rather the colour? A 
noise as of a waste recalled me to less elevated preoccupations. He 
stood up trembling all over. We bent together over the pot which 
at length I took by the handle and tilted from side to side. A few 
fibrou: shreds floated in the yellow liquid. How can you hope to 
shit, i said, when you’ve nothing in your stomach? He protested 
he had had his lunch. You ate nothing, I said. He said no more. 
I had scored a hit. You forget we are leaving in an hour or so, I 
said. I can’t, he said. So that, I pursued, you will have to eat some- 
thing. An acute pain shot through my knee. What’s the matter. 



papa? he said. I let myself fall on the stool, pulled up the leg of 
my trousers and examined my knee, flexing and unflexing it. Quick 
the iodex, I said. You’re sitting on it, he said. I stood up and the 
leg of my trousers fell down over my ankle. This inertia of things 
is enough to drive one literally insane. I let out a bellow which must 
have been heard by the Eisner sisters. They stop reading, raise 
their heads, look at each other, listen. Nothing more. Just another 
cry in the night. Two old hands, veined, ringed, seek each other, 
clasp. I pulled up the leg of my trousers again, rolled it in a fury 
round my thigh, raised the lid of the stool, took out the iodex and 
rubbed it into my knee. The knee is full of little loose bones. Let 
it soak well in, said my son. He would pay for that later on. When 
I had finished I put everything back in place, rolled down the leg 
of my trousers, sat down on the stool again and listened. Nothing 
more. Unless you’d like to try a real emetic, I said, as if nothing 
had happened. I’m tired, he said. You go and lie down, I said. I’ll 
bring you something nice and light in bed, you’ll have a little sleep 
and then we’ll leave together. I drew him to me. What do you say 
to that? I said. He said to it. Yes papa. Did he love me then as 
much as I loved him? You could never be sure with that little 
hypocrite. Be off with you now, I said, cover yourself up well, I 
won’t be long. I went down to the kitchen, prepared and set out 
on my handsome lacquer tray a bowl of hot milk and a slice of 
bread and jam. He asked for a report he’ll get his report. Martha 
watched me in silence, lolling in her rocking-chair. Like a Fate 
who had run out of thread. I cleaned up everything after me and 
turned to the door. May I go to bed? she said. She had waited till 
I was standing up, the laden tray in my hands, to ask me this 
question. I went out, set down the tray on the chair at the foot 
of the stairs and went back to the kitchen. Have you made the 
sandwiches? I said. Meanwhile the milk was getting cold and form- 
ing a revolting skin. She had made them. I’m going to bed, she 
said. Everyone was going to bed. You will have to get up in an 
hour or so, I said, to lock up. It was for her to decide if it was worth- 
while going to bed, under these conditions. She asked me how long 
I expected to be away. Did she realise I was not setting out alone? 
I suppose so. When she went up to tell my son to come down. 



even if he had told her nothing, she must have noticed the knap- 
sack. I have no idea, I said. Then almost in the same breath, seeing 
her so old, worse than old, ageing, so sad and solitary in her ever- 
lasting corner. There, there, it won’t be long. And I advised her, 
in terms for me warm, to have a good rest while I was away and 
a good time visiting her friends and receiving them. Stint neither 
tea nor sugar, I said, and if by any chance you should happen to 
need money, apply to Mr Savory. I carried this sudden cordiality 
so far as to shake her by the hand, which she hastily wiped, as 
soon as she grasped my intention, on her apron. When I had 
finished shaking it, that flabby red hand, I did not let it go. But I 
took one finger between the tips of mine, drew it towards me and 
gazed at it. And had I had any tears to shed I should have shed 
them then, in torrents, for hours. She must have wondered if I was 
not on the point of making an attempt on her virtue. I gave her 
back her hand, took the sandwiches and left her. 

Martha had been a long time in my service. I was often away 
from home. I had never taken leave of her in this way, but always 
offhandedly, even when a prolonged absence was to be feared, 
which was not the case on this occasion. Sometimes I departed 
without a word to her. 

Before going into my son’s room I went into my own. I still 
had the cigar in my mouth, but the pretty ash had fallen off. I 
reproached myself with this negligence. I dissolved a sleeping-pow- 
der in the milk. He asked for a report, he’ll get his report. I was 
going out with the tray when my eyes fell on the two albums lying 
on my desk. I wondered if I might not relent, at any rate so far 
as the album of duplicates was concerned. A little while ago he 
had come here to fetch the thermometer. He had been a long time. 
Had he taken advantage of the opportunity to secure some of his 
favourite stamps? I had not time to check them all. I put down the 
tray a^c! looked for a few stamps at random, the Togo one mark 
carm! 10 with the pretty boat, the Nyassa 1901 ten reis, and several 
others. I was very fond of the Nyassa. It was green and showed a 
giraffe grazing off the top of a palm-tree. They were all there. That 
proved nothing. It only proved that those particular stamps were 
there. I finally decided that to go back on my decision, freely taken 



and clearly stated, would deal a blow to my authority which it was 
in no condition to sustain. I did so with sorrow. My son was al- 
ready sleeping. I woke him. He ate and drank, grimacing with 
disgust. That was all the thanks I got. I waited until the last drop, 
the last crumb, had disappeared. He turned to the wall and I 
tucked him in. I was within a hair’s breadth of kissing him. Neither 
he nor I had uttered a word. We had no further need of words, 
for the time being. Besides my son rarely spoke to me unless I 
spoke to him. And when I did so he answered but lamely and as 
it were with reluctance. And yet with his little friends, when he 
thought I was out of the way, he was incredibly voluble. That my 
presence had the effect of dampening this disposition was far from 
displeasing me. Not one person in a hundred knows how to be silent 
and listen, no, nor even to conceive what such a thing means. Yet 
only then can you detect, beyond the fatuous clamour, the silence 
of which the universe is made. I desired this advantage for my son. 
And that he should hold aloof from those who pride themselves 
on their eagle gaze. I had not struggled, toiled, suffered, made good, 
lived like a Hottentot, so that my son should do the same. I tip- 
toed out. I quite enjoyed playing my parts through to the bitter end. 

Since in this way I shirked the issue, have I to apologise for 
saying so? I let fall this suggestion for what it is worth. And per- 
functorily. For in describing this day I am once more he who suf- 
fered it, who crammed it full of futile anxious life, with no other 
purpose than his own stultification and the means of not doing what 
he had to do. And as then my thoughts would have none of Molloy, 
so tonight my pen. This confession has been preying on my mind 
for some time past. To have made it gives me no relief. 

I reflected with bitter satisfaction that if my son lay down and 
died by the wayside, it would be none of my doing. To every man 
his own responsibilities. I know of some they do not keep awake. 

I said. There is something in this house tying my hands. A 
man like me cannot forget, in his evasions, what it is he evades. I 
went down to the garden and moved about in the almost total 
darkness. If I had not known my garden so well I would have 
blundered into my shrubberies, or my bee-hives. My cigar had gone 
Out unnoticed. I shook it and put it in my pooket, intending to 



discard it in the ash-tray, or in the waste-paper basket, later on. 
But the next day, far from Turdy, I found it in my pocket and 
indeed not without satisfaction. For I was able to get a few more 
puffs out of it. To discover the cold cigar between my teeth, to 
spit it out, to search for it in the dark, to pick it up, to wonder 
what I should do with it, to shake it needlessly and put it in my 
pocket, to conjure up the ash-tray and the waste-paper basket, 
these were merely the principal stages of a sequence which I 
spun out for a quarter of an hour at least. Others concerned 
the dog Zulu, the perfumes Sharpened tenfold by the rain 
and whose sources I amused myself exploring, in my head and 
with my hands, a neighbour’s light, another’s noise, and so on. 
My son’s window was faintly lit. He liked sleeping with a night-light 
beside him. I sometimes felt it was wrong of me to let him humour 
this weakness. Until quite recently he could not sleep unless he had 
his woolly bear to hug. When he had forgotten the bear (Baby Jack) 
I would forbid the night-light. What would I have done that day 
without my son to distract me? My duty perhaps. 

Finding my spirits as low in the garden as in the house, I 
turned to go in, saying to myself it was one of two things, either 
my house had nothing to do with the kind of nothingness in the 
midst of which I stumbled or else the whole of my little property 
was to blame. To adopt this latter hypothesis was to condone what 
I had done and, in advance, what I was to do, pending my depar- 
ture. It brought me a semblance of pardon and a brief moment of 
factitious freedom. I therefore adopted it. 

From a distance the kitchen had seemed to be in darkness. 
And in a sense it was. But in another sense it was not. For gluing 
my eyes to the window-pane I discerned a faint reddish glow which 
could not have come from the oven, for I had no oven, but a simple 
gas-stove. An oven if you like, but a gas-oven. That is to say there 
was a ;eal oven too in the kitchen, but out of service. I’m sorry, 
but t.iere it is, in a house without a gas-oven I would not have felt 
easy. In the night, interrupting my prowl, I like to go up to a 
window, lit or unlit, and look into the room, to see what is going 
on. I cover my face with my hands and peer through my fingers. 
I have terrified more than one neighbour in this way. He rushes 



outside, finds no one. For me then from their darkness the darkest 
rooms emerge, as if still instant with the vanished day or with the 
light turned out a moment before, for reasons perhaps of which 
less said the better. But the gloaming in the kitchen was of another 
kind and came from the night-light with the red chimney which, 
in Martha’s room, adjoining the kitchen, burned eternally at the 
feet of a litle Virgin carved in wood, hanging on the wall. Weary 
of rocking herself she had gone in and lain down on her bed, leav- 
ing the door of her room open so as to miss none of the sounds 
in the house. But perhaps she had gone to sleep. 

I went upstairs again. I stopped at my son’s door. I stooped 
and applied my ear to the keyhole. Some apply the eye, I the ear, 
to keyholes. I heard nothing, to my great surprise. For my son slept 
noisily, with open mouth. I took good care not to open the door. 
For this silence was of a nature to occupy my mind, for some little 
time. I went to my room. 

It was then the unheard of sight was to be seen of Moran 
making ready to go without knowing where he was going, having 
consulted neither map nor time-table, considered neither itinerary 
nor halt, heedless of the weather outlook, with only the vaguest 
notion of the outfit he would need, the time the expedition was 
likely to take, the money he would require and even the very 
nature of the work to be done and consequently the means to be 
employed. And yet there I was whistling away while I stuffed into 
my haversack a minimum of effects, similar to those I had recom- 
mended to my son. I put on my old pepper-and-salt shooting-suit 
with the knee-breeches, stockings to match and a pair of stout black 
boots. I bent down, my hands on my buttocks, and looked at my 
legs. Knock-kneed and skeleton thin they made a poor show in 
this accoutrement, unknown locally I may add. But when I left at 
night, for a distant place, I wore it with pleasure, for the sake of 
comfort, though I looked a sight. All I needed was a butterfly-net 
to have vaguely the air of a country schoolmaster on convalescent 
leave. The heavy glittering black boots, which seemed to implore a 
pair of navy-blue serge trousers, gave the finishing blow to this 
get-up which otherwise might have appeared, to the uninformed, an 
example of well-bred bad taste. On my heed, after mature hesita- 



tion, I decided to wear my straw boater, yellowed by the rain. It 
had lost its band, which gave it an appearance of inordinate height 
I was tempted to take my black cloak, but finally rejected it in 
favour of a heavy massive-handled winter umbrella. The cloak is 
a serviceable garment and I had more than one. It leaves great 
freedom of movement to the arms and at the same time conceals 
them. And there are times when a cloak is so to speak indispensable. 
But the umbrella too has great merits. And if it had been winter, or 
even autumn, instead of summer, I might have taken both. I had 
already done so, with most gratifying results. 

Dressed thus I could hardly hope to pass unseen. I did not 
wish to. Conspicuousness is the A B C of my profession. To call 
forth feelings of pity and indulgence, to be the butt of jeers and 
hilarity, is indispensable. So many vent-holes in the cask of secrets. 
On condition you cannot feel, nor denigrate, nor laugh. This state 
was mine at will. And then there was night. 

My son could only embarrass me. He was like a thousand 
other boys of his age and condition. There is something about a 
father that discourages derision. Even grotesque he commands a 
certain respect. And when he is seen out with his young hopeful, 
whose face grows longer and longer and longer with every step, 
then no further work is possible. He is taken for a widower, the 
gaudiest colours are of no avail, rather make things worse, he finds 
himself saddled with a wife long since deceased, in child-bed as 
likely as not. And my antics would be viewed as the harmless 
effect of my widowhood, presumed to have unhinged my mind. I 
boiled with anger at the thought of him who had shackled me 
thus. If he had desired my failure he could not have devised a 
better means to it. If 1 could have reflected with my usual calm 
on the work I was required to do, it would perhaps have seemed 
of a nature more likely to benefit than to suffer by the presence of 
my son. But let us not go back on that. Perhaps I could pass him 
off as my resistant, or a mere nephew. I would forbid him to call 
me papa, or show me any sign of affection, in public, if he did not 
want to get one of those clouts he so dreaded. 

And if I whistled fitfully while revolving these lugubrious 
thoughts, I suppose it was because I was happy at heart to leave 



my house, my garden, my village, I who usually left them with 
regret. Some people whistle for no reason at all. Not I. And while 
I came and went in my room, tidying up, putting back my clothes 
in the wardrobe and my hats in the boxes from which I had taken 
them the better to make my choice, locking the various drawers, 
while thus employed I had the joyful vision of myself far from 
home, from the familiar faces, from all my sheet-anchors, sitting 
on a milestone in the dark, my legs crossed, one hand on my thigh, 
my elbow in that hand, my chin cupped in the other, my eyes fixed 
on the earth as on a chessboard; coldly hatching my plans, for the 
next day, for the day after, creating time to come. And then I 
forgot that my son would be at my side, restless, plaintive, whin- 
ing for food, whining for sleep, dirtying his drawers. I opened the 
drawer of my night-table and took out a full tube of morphine 
tablets, my favourite sedative. 

I have a huge bunch of keys, it weighs over a pound. Not a 
door, not a drawer in my house but the key to it goes with me, 
wherever I go. I carry them in the right-hand pocket of my trousers, 
of my breeches in this case. A massive chain, attached to my braces, 
prevents me from losing them. This chain, four or five times longer 
than necessary, lies, coiled, on the bunch, in my pocket. Its weight 
gives me a list to the right, when I am tired, or when I forget to 
counteract it, by a muscular effort. 

I looked round for the last time, saw that I had neglected 
certain precautions, rectified this, took up my haversack, I nearly 
wrote my bagpipes, my boater, my umbrella, I hope I’m not for- 
getting anything, switched off the light, went out into the passage 
and locked my door. That at least is clear. Immediately I heard 
a strangling noise. It was my son, sleeping. I woke him. We haven’t 
a moment to lose, I said. Desperately he clung to his sleep. That 
was natural. A few hours’ sleep however deep are not enough for 
an organism in the first stages of puberty suffering from stomach 
trouble. And when I began to shake him and help him out of bed, 
pulling him first by the arms, then by the hair, he turned away 
from me in fury, to the wall, and dug his nails into the mattress. 
I had to muster all my strength to overcome his resistance. But I 
had hardly freed him from the bed when he broke from my hold. 



threw himself down on the floor and rolled about, screaming with 
anger and defiance. The fun was beginning already. This disgust- 
ing exhibition left me no choice but to use my umbrella, holding 
it by the end with both hands. But a word on the subject of my 
boater, before I forget. Two holes were bored in the brim, one on 
either side of course, I had bored them myself, with my little 
gimlet. And in these holes I had secured the ends of an elastic 
long enough to pass under my chin, under my jaws rather, but not 
too long, for it had to hold fast, under my jaws rather. In this way, 
however great my exertions, my boater stayed in its place, which 
was on my head. Shame on you, I cried, you ill-bred little pig! 
I would get angry if I were not careful. And anger is a luxury I 
cannot afford. For then I go blind, blood veils my eyes and I hear 
what the great Gustave heard, the benches creaking in the court of 
assizes. Oh it is not without scathe that one is gentle, courteous, 
reasonable, patient, day after day, year after year. I threw down 
my umbrella and ran from the room. On the stairs I met Martha 
coming up, capless, dishevelled, her clothes in disorder. What’s 
going on? she cried. I looked at her. She went back to her kitchen. 
Trembling I hastened to the shed, seized my axe, went into the 
yard and began hacking madly at an old chopping-block that lay 
there and on which in winter, tranquilly, I split my logs. Finally 
the blade sank into it so deeply that I could not get it out. The 
efforts I made to do so brought me, with exhaustion, calm. I went 
upstairs again. My son was dressing. He was crying. Everybody was 
crying. I helped him put on his knapsack. I told him not to forget 
his raincoat. He began to put it in his knapsack. I told him to carry 
it over his arm, for the moment. It was nearly midnight. I picked 
up my umbrella. Intact. Get on, I said. He went out of the room 
which I paused for a moment to survey, before I followed him. It 
was a shambles. The night was fine, in my humble opinion. Scents 
filled the air. The gravel crunched under our feet. No, I said, this 
way. I ent.i'ed the little wood. My son floundered behind me, bump- 
ing into the trees. He did not know how to find his way in the 
dark. He was still young, the words of reproach died on my lips. 
I stopped. Take my hand, I said. I might have said. Give me your 
hand. I said, Take my hand. Strange. But the path was too narrow 



for us to walk abreast. So I put my hand behind me and my son 
grasped it, gratefully I fancied. So we came to the little wicket-gate. 
It was locked. I unlocked it and stood aside, to let my son precede 
me. I turned back to look at my house. It was partly hidden by the 
little wood. The roof’s serrated ridge, the single chimney-stack with 
its four flues, stood out faintly against the sky spattered with a 
few dim stars. I offered my face to the black mass of fragrant 
vegetation that was mine and with which I could do as I pleased 
and never be gainsaid. It was full of songbirds, their heads under 
their wings, fearing nothing, for they knew me. My trees, my bushes, 
my flower-beds, my tiny lawns, I used to think I loved them. If I 
sometimes cut a branch, a flower, it was solely for their good, that 
they might increase in strength and happiness. And I never did it 
without a pang. Indeed if the truth were known, I did not do it 
at all, I got Christy to do it. I grew no vegetables. Not far off was 
the hen-house. When I said I had turkeys, and so on, I lied. All 
I had was a few hens. My grey hen was there, not on the perch with 
the others, but on the ground, in a corner, in the dust, at the mercy 
of the rats. The cock no longer sought her out to tread her angrily. 
The day was at hand, if she did not take a turn for the better, when 
the other hens would join forces and tear her to pieces, with their 
beaks and claws. All was silent. I have an extremely sensitive ear. 
Yet I have no ear for music. I could just hear that adorable murmur 
of tiny feet, of quivering feathers and feeble, smothered clucking 
that hen-houses make at night and that dies down long before dawn. 
How often I had listened to it, entranced, in the evening, saying. 
Tomorrow I am free. And so I turned again a last time towards 
my little all, before I left it, in the hope of keeping it. 

In the lane, having locked the wicket-gate, I said to my son. 
Left. I had long since given up going for walks with my son, though 
I sometimes longed to do so. The least outing with him was torture, 
he lost his way so easily. Yet when alone he seemed to know all the 
short cuts. When I sent him to the grocer’s, or to Mrs Clement’s, 
or even further afield, on the road to V for grain, he was back in 
half the time I would have taken for the journey myself, and with- 
out having run. For I did not want my son to be seen capering 
in the streets like the little hooligans he frequented on the sly. No, 



I wanted him to walk like his father, with rapid steps, his head 
up, breathing even and economical, his arms swinging, looking 
neither to left nor right, apparently oblivious to everything and in 
reality missing nothing. But with me he invariably took the wrong 
turn, a crossing or a simple corner was all he needed to stray from 
the right road, it of my election. I do not think he did this on 
purpose. But leaving everything to me he did not heed what he 
was doing, or look where he was going, and went on mechanically 
plunged in a kind of dream. It was as though he let himself be 
sucked in out of sight by every opening that offered. So that we had 
got into the habit of taking our walks separately. And the only 
walk we regularly took together was that which led us, every Sun- 
day, from home to church and, mass over, from church to home. 
Caught up then in the slow tide of the faithful my son was not 
alone with me. But he was part of that docile herd going yet again 
to thank God for his goodness and to implore his mercy and for- 
giveness, and then returning, their souls made easy, to other grati- 

I waited for him to come back, then spoke the words calculated 
to settle this matter once and for all. Get behind me, I said, and 
keep behind me. This solution had its points, from several points 
of view. But was he capable of keeping behind me? Would not 
the time be bound to come when he would raise his head and find 
himself alone, in a strange place, and when I, waking from my 
reverie, would turn and find him gone? I toyed briefly with the 
idea of attaching him to me by means of a long rope, its two ends 
tied about our waists. There are various ways of attracting attention 
and I was not sure that this was one of the good ones. And he 
might have undone his knots in silence and escaped, leaving me to 
go on my way alone, followed by a long rope trailing in the dust, 
like a burgess of Calais. Until such time as the rope, catching on 
some fixed or heavy object, should stop me dead in my stride. We 
should have needed, not the soft silent rope, but a chain, which was 
not to be dreamt of. And yet I did dream of it, for an instant I 
amused myself dreaming of it, imagining myself in a world less ill 
contrived and wondering how, having nothing more than a simple 
chain, without collar or band or gyves or fetters of any kind, I 



could chain my son to me in such a way as to prevent him from 
ever shaking me off again. It was a simple problem of toils and 
knots and I could have solved it at a pinch. But already I was 
called elsewhere by the image of my son no longer behind me, but 
before me. Thus in the rear I could keep my eye on him and inter- 
vene, at the least false movement he might make. But apart from 
having other parts to play, during this expedition, than those of 
keeper and sick-nurse, the prospect was more than I could bear of 
being unable to move a step without having before my eyes my 
son’s sullen, plump body. Come, here ! I cried. For on hearing me 
say we were to go to the left he had gone to the left, as if his 
dearest wish was to infuriate me. Slumped over my umbrella, my 
head sunk as beneath a malediction, the fingers of my free hand 
between two slats of the wicket, I no more stirred than if I had 
been of stone. So he came back a second time. I tell you to keep 
behind me and you go before me, I said. 

It was the summer holidays. His school cap was green with 
initials and a boar’s head, or a deer’s, in gold braid on the front. It 
lay plumb on his big blond skull as precise as a lid on a pot. There 
is something about this strict sit of hats and caps that never fails 
to exasperate me. As for his raincoat, instead of carrying it folded 
over his arm, or flung across his shoulder, as I had told him, he 
had rolled it in a ball and was holding it with both hands, on his 
belly. There he was before me, his big feet splayed, his knees sag- 
ging, his stomach sticking out, his chest sunk, his chin in the air, 
his mouth open, in the attitude of a veritable half-wit. I myself must 
have looked as if only the support of my umbrella and the wicket 
were keeping me from falling. I managed finally to articulate, Are 
you capable of following me? He did not answer. But I seized his 
thoughts as clearly as if he had spoken them, namely. And you, are 
you capable of leading me? Midnight struck, from the steeple of my 
beloved church. It did not matter. I was gone from home. I sought 
in my mind, where all I need is to be found, what treasured pos- 
session he was likely to have about him. I hope, I said, you have 
not forgotten your scout-knife, we might need it. This knife com- 
prised, apart from the five or six indispensable blades, a cork-screw, 
a tin-opener, a punch, a screw-driver, a claw, a gouge for removing 



stones from hooves and I know not what other futilities besides. 
I had given it to him myself, on the occasion of his first first prize 
for history and geography, subjects which, at the school he at- 
tended, were for obscure reasons regarded as inseparable. The 
veriest dunce when it came to literature and the so-called exact 
sciences, he had no equal for the dates of battles, revolutions, 
restorations and other exploits of the human race, in its slow ascen- 
sion towards the light, and for the configuration of frontiers and 
the heights of mountain peaks. He deserved his scout-knife. Don’t 
tell me you’ve left it behind, I said. Not likely, he said, with pride 
and satisfaction, tapping his pocket. Then give it to me, I said. 
Naturally he did not answer. Prompt obedience was contrary to 
his habits. Give me that knife ! I cried. He gave it to me. What could 
he do, alone with me in the night that tells no tales? It was for his 
own good, to save him from getting lost. For where a scout’s knife 
is, there will his heart be also, unless he can afford to buy another, 
which was not the case with my son. For he never had any money in 
his pocket, not needing it. But every penny he received, and he did 
not receive many, he deposited first in his savings-box, then in the 
savings-bank, where they were entered in a book that remained in 
my possession. He would doubtless at that moment with pleasure 
have cut my throat, with that selfsame knife I was putting so 
placidly in my pocket. But he was still a little on the young side, 
my son, a little on the soft side, for the great deeds of vengeance. 
But time was on his side and he consoled himself perhaps with that 
thought, foolish though he was. Be that as it may, he kept back 
his tears, for which I was obliged to him. I straightened myself 
and laid my hand on his shoulder, saying, Patience, my child, 
patience. The awful thing in affairs of this kind is that when you 
have the will you do not have the way, and vice versa. But of that 
my unfortunate son could as yet have no suspicion, he must have 
thought that the rage which distorted his features and made him 
tremble would never leave him till the day he could vent it as it 
deserved. And not even then. Yes, he must have felt his soul the 
soul of a pocket Monte Cristo, with whose antics as adumbrated 
in the Schoolboys’ Classics he was needless to say familiar. Then 
with a good clap on that impotent back I said. Off we go. And off 



indeed I did go, what is more, and my son drew out behind me. 
I had left, accompanied by my son, in accordance with instructions 

I have no intention of relating the various adventures which 
befell us, me and my son, together and singly, before we came to 
the Molloy country. It would be tedious. But that is not what stops 
me. All is tedious, in this relation that is forced upon me. But I 
shall conduct it in my own way, up to a point. And if it has not 
the good fortune to give satisfaction, to my employer, if there are 
passages, that give offence to him and to his colleagues, then so 
much the worse for us all, for them all, for there is no worse for me. 
That is to say, I have not enough imagination to imagine it. And 
yet I have more than before. And if I submit to this paltry scriven- 
ing which is not of my province, it is for reasons very different from 
those that might be supposed. I am still obeying orders, if you like, 
but no longer out of fear. No, I am still afraid, but simply from 
force of habit. And the voice I listen to needs no Gaber to make 
it heard. For it is within me and exhorts me to continue to the end 
the faithful servant I have always been, of a cause that is not mine, 
and patiently fulfil in all its bitterness my calamitous part, as it was 
my will, when I had a will, that others should. And this with hatred 
in my heart, and scorn, of my master and his designs. Yes, it is 
rather an ambiguous voice and not always easy to follow, in its 
reasonings and decrees. But I follow it none the less, more or less, 
I follow it in this sense, that I know what it means, and in this 
sense, that I do what it tells me. And I do not think there are many 
voices of which as much may be said. And I feel I shall follow 
it from this day forth, no matter what it commands. And when it 
ceases, leaving me in doubt and darkness, I shall wait for it to come 
back, and do nothing, even though the whole world, through the 
channel of its innumerable authorities speaking with one accord, 
should enjoin upon me this and that, under pain of unspeakable 
punishments. But this evening, this morning, I have drunk a little 
more than usual and tomorrow I may be of a different mind. It 
also tells me, this voice I am only just beginning to know, that the 
memory of this work brought scrupulously to a close will help me 
to endure the long anguish of vagrancy and freedom. Does this 



mean I shall one day be banished from my house, from my garden, 
lose my trees, my lawns, my birds of which the least is known to 
me and the way all its own it has of singing, of flying, of com- 
ing up to me or fleeing at my coming, lose and be banished from 
the absurd comforts of my home where all is snug and neat and 
all those things at hand without which I could not bear being a 
man, where my enemies cannot reach me, which it was my life’s 
work to build, to adorn, to perfect, to keep? I am too old to lose 
all this, and begin again, I am too old! Quiet Moran, quiet. No 
emotion, please. 

I was saying I would not relate all the vicissitudes of the 
journey from my country to Molloy’s, for the simple reason that 
I do not intend to. And in writing these lines I know in what 
danger I am of offending him whose favour I know 1 should court, 
now more than ever. But I write them all the same, and with a 
firm hand weaving inexorably back and forth and devouring my 
page with the indifference of a shuttle. But some 1 shall relate 
briefly, because that seems to me desirable, and in order to give 
some idea of the methods of my full maturity. But before coming 
to that I shall say what little I knew, on leaving my home, about 
the Molloy country, so different from my own. For it is one of 
the features of this penance that I may not pass over what is over 
and straightway come to the heart of the matter. But that must 
again be unknown to me which is no longer so and that again 
fondly believed which then I fondly believed, at my setting out. And 
if I occasionally break this rule, it is only over details of little im- 
portance. And in the main I observe it. And with such zeal that 
I am far more he who finds than he who tells what he has found, 
now as then, most of the time, I do not exaggerate. And in the 
silence of my room, and all over as far as 1 am concerned, I know 
scarcely any better where I am going and what awaits me than the 
night I ".lung to the wicket, beside my idiot of a son, in the lane. 
And it would not surprise me if 1 deviated, in the pages to follow, 
from the true and exact succession of events. But I do not think 
even Sisyphus is required to scratch himself, or to groan, or to 
rejoice, as the fashion is now, always at the same appointed places. 
And it may even be they are not too particular about the route he 



takes provided it gets him to his destination safely and on time. 
And perhaps he thinks each journey is the first. This would keep 
hope alive, would it not, hellish hope. Whereas to see yourself 
doing the same thing endlessly over and over again fills you with 

By the Molloy country I mean that narrow region whose ad- 
ministrative limits he had never crossed and presumably never 
would, either because he was forbidden to, or because he had no 
wish to, or of course because of some extraordinary fortuitous con- 
junction. of circumstances. This region was situated in the north, 
I mean in relation to mine, less bleak, and comprised a settlement, 
dignified by some with the name of market-town, by others re- 
garded as no more than- a village, and the surrounding country. 
This market-town, or village, was, I hasten to say, called Bally, 
and represented, with its dependent lands, a surface area of five 
or six square miles at the most. In modern countries this is what 
I think is called a commune, or a canton, I forget, but there exists 
with us no abstract and generic term for such territorial subdivisions. 
And to express them we have another system, of singular beauty 
and simplicity, which consists in saying Bally (since we are talking 
of Bally) when you mean Bally and Ballyba when you mean Bally 
plus its domains and Ballybaba when you mean the domains ex- 
clusive of Bally itself. I myself for example lived, and come to 
think of it still live, in Turdy, hub of Turdyba. And in the evening, 
when I went for a stroll, in the country outside Turdy, to get a 
breath of fresh air, it was the fresh air of Turdybaba that I got, 
and no other. 

Ballybaba, in spite of its limited range, could boast of a cer- 
tain diversity. Pastures so-called, a little bogland, a few copses and, 
as you neared its confines, undulating and almost smiling aspects, 
as if Ballybaba was glad to go no further. 

But the principal beauty of this region was a kind of strangled 
creek which the slow grey tides emptied and filled, emptied and 
filled. And the people came flocking from the town, unromantic 
people, to admire this spectacle. Some said. There is nothing more 
beautiful than these wet sands. Others, High tide is the best time 
to see the creek of Ballyba. How lovely then that leaden water. 



you would swear it was stagnant, if you did not know it was not. 
And yet others held it was like an underground lake. But all were 
agreed, like the inhabitants of Blackpool, that their town was on 
the sea. And they had Bally-on-Sea printed on their notepaper. 

The population of Ballyba was small. I confess this thought 
gave me great satisfaction. The land did not lend itself to cultiva- 
tion. No sooner did a tilth, or a meadow, begin to be sizeable than 
it fell foul of a sacred grove or a stretch of marsh from which 
nothing could be obtained beyond a little inferior turf or scraps 
of bogoak used for making amuldts, paper-knives, napkin-rings, 
rosaries and other knick-knacks. Martha’s madonna, for example, 
came from Ballyba. The pastures, in spite of the torrential rains, 
were exceedingly meagre and strewn with boulders. Here only 
quitchweed grew in abundance, and a curious bitter blue grass fatal 
to cows and horses, though tolerated apparently by the ass, the goat 
and the black sheep. What then was the source of Ballyba’s pros- 
perity? I’ll tell you. No, I’ll tell you nothing. Nothing. 

That then is a part of what I thought I knew about Ballyba 
when I left home. I wonder if I was not confusing it with some 
other place. 

Some twenty paces from my wicket-gate the lane skirts the 
graveyard wall. The lane descends, the wall rises, higher and higher. 
Soon you are faring below the dead. It is there I have my plot in 
perpetuity. As long as the earth endures that spot is mine, in 
theory. Sometimes I went and looked at my grave. The stone was 
up already. It was a simple Latin cross, white. I wanted to have my 
name put on it, with the here lies and the date of my birth. Then 
all it would have wanted was the date of my death. They would 
not let me. Sometimes I smiled, as if I were dead already. 

We walked for several days, by sequestered ways. I did not 
want to be seen on the highways. 

Thf first day I found the butt of Father Ambrose’s cigar. Not 
only had I not thrown it away, in the ash-tray, in the waste-paper 
basket, but I had put it in my pocket, when changing my suit. That 
had happened unbeknown to me. I looked at it in astonishment, 
lit it, took a few puffs, threw it away. This was the outstanding 
event of the first day. 



I showed my son how to use his pocket-compass. This gave 
him great pleasure. He was behaving well, better than I had hoped. 
On the third day I gave him back his knife. 

The weather was kind. We easily managed our ten miles a 
day. We slept in the open. Safety first. 

I showed my son how to make a shelter out of branches. He 
was in the scouts, but knew nothing. Yes, he knew how to make 
a camp fire. At every halt he implored me to let him exercise this 
talent. 1 saw no point in doing so. 

We lived on tinned food which I sent him to get in the villages. 
He was that much use to me. We drank the water to the streams. 

All these precautions were assuredly useless. One day in a field 
I saw a farmer I knew. He was coming towards us. I turned im- 
mediately, took my son by the arm and led him away in the direc- 
tion we were coming from. The farmer overtook us, as I had fore- 
seen. Having greeted me, he asked where we were going. It must 
have been his field. I replied that wc were going home. Fortunately 
we had not yet left it far behind. Then he asked me where we had 
been. Perhaps one of his cows had been stolen, or one of his pigs. 
Out walking, I said. I’d give you a lift and welcome, he said, but 
I won’t be leaving till night. Oh how very unfortunate, I said. If 
you care to wait, he said, you’re very welcome. I declined with 
thanks. Fortunately it was not yet midday. There was nothing 
strange in not wanting to wait till night. Well, safe home, he said. 
We made a wide detour and turned our faces to the north again. 

These precautions were doubtless exaggerated. The right thing 
would have been to travel by night and hide during the day, at 
least in the early stages. But the weather was so fine I could not 
bring myself to do it. My pleasure was not my sole consideration, 
but it was a consideration! Such a thing had never happened to 
me before, in the course of my work. And our snail’s pace ! I cannot 
have been in a hurry to arrive. 

I gave fitful thought, while basking in the balm of the warm 
summer days, to Gaber’s instructions. I could not reconstruct them 
to my entire satisfaction. In the night, under the boughs, screened 
from the charms of nature, I devoted myself to this problem. The 
sounds my son made during his sleep hindered me considerably. 



Sometimes I went out of the shelter and walked up and down, in 
the dark. Or I sat down with my back against a trunk, drew my 
feet up under me, took my legs in my arms and rested my chin 
on my knee. Even in this posture I could throw no light on the 
matter. What was I looking for exactly? It is hard to say. I was 
looking for what was wanting to make Gaber’s statement complete. 
I felt he must have told me what to do with Molloy once he was 
found. My particular duties never terminated with the running to 
earth. That would have been too easy. But I had always to deal 
with the client in one way or anftther, according to instructions. 
Such operations took on a multitude of forms, from the most 
vigorous to the most discreet. The Yerk affair, which took me nearly 
three months to conclude successfully, was over on the day I suc- 
ceeded in possessing myself of his tiepin and destroying it. Estab- 
lishing contact was the least important part of my work. I found 
Yerk on the third day. I was never required to prove I had suc- 
ceeded, my word was enough. Youdi must have had some way of 
verifying. Sometimes I was asked for a report. 

On another occasion my mission consisted in bringing the per- 
son to a certain place at a certain time. A most delicate affair, for 
the person concerned was not a woman. I have never had to deal 
with a woman. I regret it. I don’t think Youdi had much interest 
in them. That reminds me of the old joke about the female soul. 
Question, Have women a soul? Answer, Yes. Question, Why? 
Answer, In order that they may be damned. Very witty. Fortunately 
I had been allowed considerable licence as to the day. The hour 
was the important thing, not the date. He came to the appointed 
place and there I left him, on some pretext or other. He was a nice 
youth, rather sad and silent. I vaguely remember having invented 
some story about a woman. Wait, it’s coming back. Yes, I told him 
she had been in love with him for six months and greatly desired to 
meet h\ii in some secluded place. I even gave her name. Quite a 
well-known actress. Having brought him to the place appointed by 
her, it was only natural I should withdraw, out of delicacy. I can 
see him still, looking after me. I fancy he would have liked me for a 
friend. I don’t know what became of him. I lost interest in my 
patients, once I had finished with them. I may even truthfully say I 



never saw one of them again, subsequently, not a single one. No con- 
clusions need be drawn from this. Oh the stories I could tell you if 
I were easy. What a rabble in my head, what a gallery of mori- 
bunds. Murphy, Watt, Yerk, Mercier and all the others. I would 
never have believed that — yes, I believe it willingly. Stories, stories. 
I have not been able to tell them. I shall not be able to tell this one. 

I could not determine therefore how I was to deal with Molloy, 
once I had found him. The directions which Gabcr must certainly 
have given me with reference to this had gone clean out of my head. 
That Is what came of wasting the whole of that Sunday on stupid- 
ities. There was no good my saying, Let me see now, what is the 
usual thing? There were no usual things, in my instructions. Ad- 
mittedly there was one particular operation that recurred from time 
to time, but not often enough to be, with any degree of probability, 
the one I was looking for. But even if it had always figured in my in- 
structions, except on one single occasion, then that single occasion 
would have been enough to tie my hands, I was so scrupulous. 

I told myself I had better give it no more thought, that the first 
thing to do was to find Molloy, that then I would devise something, 
that there was no hurry, that the thing would come back to me when 
I least expected it and that if, having found Molloy, I still did not 
know what to do with him, I could always manage to get in touch 
with Gaber without Youdi’s knowing. I had his address just as he 
had mine. I would send him a telegram. How deal with M? To give 
me an explicit reply, though in terms if necessary veiled, was not 
beyond his powers. But was there a telegraph in Ballyba? But I 
also told myself, being only human, that the longer I took to find 
Molloy the greater my chances of remembering what I was to do 
with him. And we would have peaceably pursued our way on foot, 
but for the following incident. 

One night, having finally succeeded in falling asleep beside 
my son as usual, I woke with a start, feeling as if I had just been 
dealt a violent blow. It’s all right, I am not going to tell you a 
dream properly so called. It was pitch dark in the shelter. I listened 
attentively without moving. I heard nothing save the snoring and 
gasping of my son. I was about to conclude as usual that it was 
just another bad dream when a fulgurating pain went through my 



knee. This then was the explanation of my sudden awakening. 
The sensation could indeed well be compared to that of a blow, 
such as I fancy a horse’s hoof might give. I waited anxiously for 
it to recur, motionless and hardly breathing, and, of course, sweat- 
ing. I acted in a word precisely as one does, if my information 
was correct, at such a juncture. And sure enough the pain did 
recur a few minutes later, but not so bad as the first time, as the 
second rather. Or did it only seem less bad to me because I was 
expecting it? Or because I was getting used to it already? I think 
not. For it recurred again, several*times, and each time less bad 
than the time before, and finally subsided altogether so that I was 
able to get to sleep again more or less reassured. But before getting 
to sleep again I had time to remember that the pain in question 
was not altogether new to me. For I had felt it before, in my bath- 
room, when giving my son his enema. But then it had only attacked 
me once and never recurred, till now. And I went to sleep again 
wondering, by way of lullaby, whether it had been the same knee 
then as the one which had just excruciated me, or the other. And 
that is a thing I have never been able to determine. And my son 
too, when asked, was incapable of telling me which of my two 
knees I had rubbed in front of him, with iodex, the night we left. 
And I went to sleep again a little reassured, saying. It’s a touch 
of neuralgia brought on by all the tramping and trudging and the 
chill damp nights, and promising myself to procure a packet of 
thermogene wool, with the pretty demon on the outside, at the first 
opportunity. Such is the rapidity of thought. But there was more 
to come. For waking again towards dawn, this time in consequence 
of a natural need, and with a mild erection, to make things more 
lifelike, I was unable to get up. That is to say I did get up finally 
to be sure, I simply had to, but by dint of what exertions ! Unable, 
unable, it’s easy to talk about being unable, whereas in reality 
nothing is more difficult. Because of the will I suppose, which the 
least opposition seems to lash into a fury. And this explains no 
doubt how it was I despaired at first ever bending my leg again 
and then, a little later, through sheer determination, did succeed 
in bending it, slightly. The anchylosis was not total! I am still 
talking about my knee. But was it the same one that had waked 



me early in the night? I could not have sworn it was. It was not 
painful. It simply refused to bend. The pain, having warned me 
several times in vain, had no more to say. That is how I saw it. 
It would have been impossible for me to kneel, for example, for 
no matter how you kneel you must always bend both knees, unless 
you adopt an attitude frankly grotesque and impossible to main- 
tain for more than a few seconds, I mean with the bad leg stretched 
out before you, like a Caucasian dancer. I examined the bad knee 
in the light of my torch. It was neither red nor swollen. I fiddled 
with the knee-cap. It felt like a' clitoris. All this time my son was 
puffing like a grampus. He had no suspicion of what life could do 
to you. I too was innocent. But I knew it. 

The sky was that horrible colour which heralds dawn. Things 
steal back into position for the day, take their stand, sham dead. 
I sat down cautiously, and I must say with a certain curiosity, on 
the ground. Anyone else would have tried to sit down as usual, 
off-handedly. Not I. New as this new cross was I at once found the 
most comfortable way of being crushed. But when you sit down 
on the ground you must sit down tailor-wise, or like a foetus, 
these are so to speak the only possible positions, for a beginner. 
So that I was not long in letting myself fall back flat on my back. 
And I was not long either in making the following addition to the 
sum of my knowledge, that when the innumerable attitudes adopted 
unthinkingly by the normal man all are precluded but two or three, 
then these are enhanced. I would have sworn just the opposite, but 
for this experience. Yes, when you can neither stand nor sit with 
comfort, you take refuge in the horizontal, like a child in its 
mother’s lap. You explore it as never before and find it possessed 
of unsuspected delights. In short it becomes infinite. And if in spite 
of all you come to tire of it in the end, you have only to stand up, 
or indeed sit up, for a few seconds. Such are the advantages of a 
local and painless paralysis. And it would not surprise me if the 
great classical paralysis were to offer analogous and perhaps even 
still more unspeakable satisfactions. To be literally incapable of 
motion at last, that must be something! My mind swoons when I 
think of it. And mute into the bargain ! And perhaps as deaf as a 
post! And who knows as blind as a bat! And as likely as not your 



memoiy a blank! And just enough brain intact to allow you to 
exult ! And to dread death like a regeneration. 

I considered the problem of what I should do if my leg did 

not get better or got worse. I watched, through the branches, the 

sky sinking. The sky sinks in the morning, this fact has been in- 
sufficiently observed. It stoops, as if to get a better look. Unless 

it is the earth that lifts itself up, to be approved, before it sets out. 

I shall, not expound my reasoning. I could do so easily, so 
easily. Its conclusion made possible the composition of the follow- 
ing passage. 

Did you have a good night? I said, as soon as my son opened 
his eyes. I could have waked him, but no, I let him wake naturally. 
Finally he told me he did not feel well. My son’s replies were often 
beside the point. Where are we, I said, and what is the nearest 
village? He named it. I knew it, I had been there, it was a small 
town, luck was on our side. I even had a few acquaintances, among 
its inhabitants. What day is it? I said. He specified the day without 
a moment’s hesitation. And he had only just regained conscious- 
ness! I told you he had a genius for history and geography. It was 
from him I learned that Condom is on the Baise. Good, I said, off 
you go now to Hole, it’ll take you — I worked it out — at the most 
three hours. He stared at me in astonishment. There, I said, buy 
a bicycle to fit you, second-hand for preference. You can go up to 
five pounds. I gave him five pounds, in ten-shilling notes. It must 
have a very strong carrier, I said, if it isn’t very strong get it 
changed, for a very strong one. I was trying to be clear. I asked 
him if he was pleased. He did not look pleased. I repeated these 
instructions and asked him again if he was pleased. He looked if 
anything stupefied. A consequence perhaps of the great joy he felt. 
Perhaps he could not believe his ears. Do you understand if noth- 
ing else? I said. What a boon it is from time to time, a little real 
conversation. Tell me what you are to do, I said. It was the only 
way of knowing if he understood. Go to Hole, he said, fifteen miles 
away. Fifteen miles! I cried. Yes, he said. All right, I said, go on. 
And buy a bicycle, he said. I waited. Silence. A bicycle! I cried. 
But there are millions of bicycles in Hole ! What kind of bicycle? 
He reflected. Second-hand, he said, at a venture. And if you can’t 



find one second-hand? I said. You told me second-hand, he said. 
I remained silent for some time. And if you can’t find one second- 
hand, I said at last, what will you do? You didn’t tell me, he said. 
What a restful change it is from time to time, a little dialogue. 
How much money did I give you? I said. He counted the notes. 
Four pounds ten, he said. Count them again, I said. He counted 
them again. Four pounds ten, he said. Give it to me, I said. He 
gave me the notes and I counted them. Four pounds ten. I gave 
you five, I said. He did not answer, he let the figures speak for 
themselves. Had he stolen ten Shillings and hidden them on his 
person? Empty your pockets, I said. He began to empty them. It 
must not be forgotten that all this time I was lying down. He did 
not know I was ill. Besides I was not ill. I looked vaguely at the 
objects he was spreading out before me. He took them out of his 
pockets one by one, held them delicately between finger and thumb, 
turned them this way and that before my eyes and laid them 
finally on the ground beside me. When a pocket was emptied he 
pulled out its lining and shook it. Then a little cloud of dust arose. 
I was very soon overcome by the absurdity of this verification. I 
told him to stop. Perhaps he was hiding the ten shillings up his 
sleeve, or in his mouth. I should have had to get up and search 
him myself, inch by inch. But then he would have seen I was ill. 
Not that I was exactly ill. And why did I not want him to know I 
was ill? I don’t know. I could have counted the money I had left. 
But what use would that have been? Did I even know the amount 
I had brought with me? No. To me too I cheerfully applied the 
maieutic method. Did I know how much I had spent? No. Usually 
I kept the most rigorous accounts when away on business and was 
in a position to justify my expenditure down to the last penny. 
This time no. For I was throwing my money away with as little 
concern as if I had been travelling for my pleasure. Let us suppose 
I am wrong, I said, and that I only gave you four pounds ten. He 
was calmly picking up the objects littered on the ground and putting 
them back in his pockets. How could he be made to understand? 
Stop that and listen, I said. I gave him the notes. Count them, I 
said. He counted them. How much? I said. Four pounds ten, he 
said. Ten what? I said. Ten shillings, he said. You have four 



pounds ten shillings? I said. Yes, he said. It was not true, I had 
given him five. You agree, I said. Yes, he said. And why do you 
think I have given you all that money? I said. His face brightened. 
To buy a bicycle, he said, without hesitation. Do you imagine a 
second-hand bicycle costs four pounds ten shillings? I said. I don’t 
know, he said. I did not know either. But that was not the point. 
What did I tell you exactly? I said. We racked our brains together. 
Second-hand for preference, I said finally, that’s what I told you. 
Ah, he said. I am not giving this duet in full. Just the main themes. 
I didn’t tell you second-hand, I Said, I told you second-hand for 
preference. He had started picking up his things again. Will you 
stop that, I cried, and pay attention to what I am saying. He osten- 
tatiously let fall a big ball of tangled string. The ten shillings were 
perhaps inside it. You see no difference between second-hand and 
second-hand for preference, I said, do you? I looked at my watch. 
It was ten o’clock. I was only making our ideas more confused. 
Stop trying to understand, I said, just listen to what I am going 
to say, because I shall not say it twice. He came over to me and 
knelt down. You would have thought I was about to breathe my 
last. Do you know what a new bicycle is? I said. Yes papa, he said. 
Very well, I said, if you can’t find a second-hand bicycle buy a new 
bicycle. I repeat. I repeated. I who had said I would not repeat. 
Now tell me what you are to do, I said. I added. Take your face 
away, your breath stinks. I almost added. You don’t brush your 
teeth and you complain of having abcesses, but I stopped myself 
in time. It was not the moment to introduce another theme. I re- 
peated, Tell me what you arc to do. He pondered. Go to Hole, he 
said, fifteen miles away—. Don’t worry about the miles, I said. 
You’re in Hole. What for ? No, I can’t. Finally he understood. 
Who is this bicycle for, I said, Goering? He had not yet grasped 
that the bicycle was for him. Admittedly he was nearly my size 
already. As for the carrier, I might just as well not have mentioned 
it. But in the end he had the whole thing off pat. So much so that 
he actually asked me what he was to do if he had not enough 
money. Come back here, and ask me, I said. I had naturally fore- 
seen, while reflecting on all these matters before my son woke, that 
he might have trouble with people asking him how he came by so 



much money and he so young. And I knew what he was to do in 
that event, namely go and see, or send for, the police-sergeant, 
give his name and say it was I, Jacques Moran, ostensibly at home 
in Turdy, who had sent him to buy a bicycle in Hole. Here 
obviously two distinct operations were involved, the first consist- 
ing in foreseeing the difficulty (before my son woke), the second in 
overcoming it (at the news that Hole was the nearest locality). But 
there was no question of my conveying instructions of such com- 
plexity. But don’t worry, I said, you’ve enough and to spare to buy 
yourself a good bicycle. I added. And bring it back here as fast as 
you can. You had to allow for everything with my son. He could 
never have guessed what to do with the bicycle once he had it. He 
was capable of hanging about Hole, under God knows what con- 
ditions, waiting for further instructions. He asked me what was 
wrong. I must have winced. I’m sick of the sight of you, I said, 
that’s what’s wrong. And I asked him what he was waiting for. I 
don’t feel well, he said. When he asked me how I was I said noth- 
ing, and when no one asked him anything he announced he was 
not feeling well. Are you not pleased, I said, to have a nice brand- 
new bicycle, all your own? I was decidedly set on hearing him say 
he was pleased. But I regretted my phrase, it could only add to his 
confusion. But perhaps this family chat has lasted long enough. 
He left the shelter and when I judged he was at a safe distance I 
left it too, painfully. He had gone about twenty paces. Leaning 
nonchalantly against a tree-trunk, my good leg boldly folded across 
the other, I tried to look light-hearted. I hailed him. He turned. 
I waved my hand. He stared at me an instant, then turned away 
and went on. I shouted his name. He turned again. A lamp! I cried. 
A good lamp! he did not understand. How could he have under- 
stood, at twenty paces, he who could not understand at one. He 
came back towards me. I waved him away, crying. Go on ! Go on ! 
He stopped and stared at me, his head on one side like a parrot, 
utterly bewildered apparently. Foolishly, I made to stoop, to pick 
up a stone or a piece of wood or a clod, anything in the way of 
a projectile, and nearly fell. I reached up above my head, broke 
off a live bough and hurled it violently in his direction. He spun 
round and took to his heels. Really there were times I could not 



understand my son. He must have known he was out of range, 
even of a good stone, and yet he took to his heels. Perhaps he was 
afraid I would run after him. And indeed, I think there is something 
terrifying about the way I run, with my head flung back, my teeth 
clenched, my elbows bent to the full and my knees nearly hitting 
me in the face. And I have often caught faster runners than myself 
thanks to this way of running. They stop and wait for me, rather 
than prolong such a horrible outburst at their heels. As for the 
lamp, we did not need a lamp. Later, when the bicycle had taken 
its place in my son’s life, in the refund of his duties and his inno- 
cent games, then a lamp would be indispensable, to light his way 
in the night. And no doubt it was in anticipation of those happy 
days that I had thought of the lamp and cried out to my son to buy 
a good one, that later on his comings and goings should not be 
hemmed about with darkness and with dangers. And similarly I 
might have told him to be careful about the bell, to unscrew the 
little cap and examine it well inside, so as to make sure it was a 
good bell and in good working order, before concluding the trans- 
action, and to ring it to hear the ring it made. But we would have 
time enough, later on, to see to all these things. And it would be 
my joy to help my son, when the time came, to fit his bicycle 
with the best lamps, both front and rear, and the best bell and the 
best brakes that money could buy. 

The day seemed very long. I missed my son! I busied myself 
as best I could. I ate several times. I took advantage of being alone 
at last, with no other witness than God, to masturbate. My son must 
have had the same idea, he must have stopped on the way to 
masturbate. I hope he enjoyed it more than I did. I circled the 
shelter several times, thinking the exercise would benefit my knee. 
I moved at quite a good speed and without much pain, but I soon 
tired. After ten or eleven steps a great weariness seized hold of my 
leg, a heaviness rather, and I had to stop. It went away at once and 
I was able to go on. I took a little morphine. I asked myself certain 
questions. Why had I not told my son to bring me back something 
for my leg? Why had I hidden my condition from him? Was I 
secretly glad that this had happened to me, perhaps even to the 
point of not wanting to get well? I surrendered myself to the 



beauties of the scene, I gazed at the trees, the fields, the sky, the 
birds, and I listened attentively to the sounds, faint and clear, 
borne to me on the air. For an instant I fancied I heard the silence 
mentioned, if I am not mistaken, above. Stretched out in the 
shelter, I brooded on the undertaking in which I was embarked. 
I tried agais to remember what I was to do with Molloy when I 
found him. I dragged myself down to the stream. I lay down and 
looked at my reflection, then I washed my face and hands. I waited 
for my image to come back, I watched it as it trembled towards 
an ever increasing likeness. Now and then a drop, falling from my 
face, shattered it again. I did not sec a soul all day. But towards 
evening I heard a prowling about the shelter. I did not move, and 
the footsteps died away. But a little later, having left the shelter 
for some reason or other, I saw a man a few paces off, standing 
motionless. He had his back to me. He wore a coat much too 
heavy for the time of the year and was leaning on a stick so 
massive, and so much thicker at the bottom than at the top, that 
it seemed more like a club. He turned and we looked at each other 
for some time in silence. That is to say I looked him full in the 
face, as I always do, to make people think I am not afraid, whereas 
he merely threw me a rapid glance from time to time, then lowered 
his eyes, less from timidity apparently than in order quietly to 
think over what he had just seen, before adding to it. There was a 
coldness in his stare, and a thrust, the like of which I never saw. 
His face was pale and noble, I could have done with it. I was think- 
ing he could not be much over fifty-five when he took off his hat, 
held it for a moment in his hand, then put it back on his head. No 
resemblance to what is called raising one’s hat. But I thought it 
advisable to nod. The hat was quite extraordinary, in shape and 
colour. I shall not attempt to describe it, it was like none I had ever 
seen. He had a huge shock of dirty snow-white hair. I had time, 
before he squeezed it in back under his hat, to see the way it 
swelled up on his skull. His face was dirty and hairy, yes, pale, 
noble, dirty and hairy. He made a curious movement, like a hen that 
puffs up its feathers and slowly dwindles till it is smaller than 
before. I thought he was going to depart without a word to me. 
But suddenly he asked me to give him a piece of bread. He ac- 



companied this humiliating request with a fiery look. His accent 
was that of a foreigner or of one who had lost the habit of speech. 
But had I not said already with relief, at the mere sight of his back. 
He’s a foreigner. Would you like a tin of sardines? I said. He asked 
for bread and I offered him fish. That is me all over. Bread, he said. 
I went into the shelter and took the piece of bread I was keeping 
for my son, who would probably be hungry when he came back. 
I gave it to him. I expected him to devour it there and then. But 
he broke it in two and put the pieces in his coat-pockets. Do you 
mind if I look at your stick? I said. I stretched out my hand. He 
did not move. I put my hand on the stick, just under his. I could 
feel his fingers gradually letting go. Now it was I who held the 
stick. Its lightness astounded me. I put il back in his hand. He threw 
me a last look and went. It was almost dark. He walked with swift 
uncertain step, often changing his course, dragging the stick like a 
hindrance. I wished I could have stood there looking after him, 
and time at a standstill. I wished I could have been in the middle of 
a desert, under the midday sun, to look after him till he was only 
a dot, on the edge of the horizon. I stayed out in the air for a long 
time. Every now and then I listened. But my son did not come. Be- 
ginning to feel cold I went back into the shelter and lay down, 
under my son’s raincoat. But beginning to feel sleepy I went out 
again and lit a big wood-fire, to guide my son towards me. When 
the fire kindled I said, Why of course, now I can warm myself! I 
warmed myself, rubbing my hands together after having held them 
to the flame and before holding them to it again, and turning my 
back to the flame and lifting the tail of my coat, and turning as on 
a spit. And in the. end, overcome with heat and weariness, I lay 
down on the ground near the fire and fell asleep, saying. Perhaps a 
spark will set fire to my clothes and I wake a living torch. And 
saying many other things besides, belonging to separate and 
apparency unconnected trains of thought. But when I woke it was 
day again and the fire was out. But the embers were still warm. My 
leg was no better, but it was no worse either. That is to say it was 
perhaps a little worse, without my being in a condition to realize it, 
for the simple reason that this leg was becoming a habit, merci- 
fully. But I think not. For at the same time as I listened to my 



knee, and then submitted it to various tests, I was on my guard 
against the effects of this habit and tried to discount them. And it 
was not so much Moran as another, in the secret of Moran’s sen- 
sations exclusively, who said, No change, Moran, no change. This 
may seem impossible. I went into the copse to cut myself a stick. 
But having filially found a suitable branch, I remembered I had 
no knife. I went back to the shelter, hoping to find my son’s knife 
among the things he had laid on the ground and neglected to 
pick up. It was not among them. To make up for this I came across 
my umbrella and said. Why cut' myself a stick when I have my 
umbrella? And I practised walking with the help of my umbrella. 
And though in this way I moved no faster and no less painfully, at 
least I did not tire so quickly. And instead of having to stop every 
ten steps, to rest, I easily managed fifteen, before having to stop. 
And even while I rested my umbrella was a help. For I found that 
when I leaned upon it the heaviness in my leg, due probably to a 
defect in the bloodstream, disappeared even more quickly than 
when I stood supported only by my muscles and the tree life. And 
thus equipped I no longer confined myself to circling about the 
shelter, as I had done the previous day, but I radiated from it in 
every direction. And I even gained a little knoll from which I had 
a better view of the expanse where my son might suddenly rise into 
view, at any moment. And in my mind’s eye from time to time I 
saw him, bent over the handlebars or standing on the pedals, draw- 
ing near, and I heard him panting and I saw written on the chubby 
face his joy at being back at last. But at the same time I kept my 
eye on the shelter, which drew me with an extraordinary pull, so 
that to cut across from the terminus of one sally to the terminus of 
the next, and so on, which would have been convenient, was out 
of the question. But each time I had to retrace my steps, the way 
I had come, to the shelter, and make sure all was in order, before 
I sallied forth again. And I consumed the greater part of this 
second day in these vain comings and goings, the vigils and imagin- 
ings, but not all of it. For I also lay down from time to time in the 
shelter, which I was beginning to think of as my little house, to 
ruminate in peace on certain things, and notably on my provisions 
of food which were rapidly running out, so that after a meal de- 



voured at five o’clock I was left with only two tins of sardines, a 
handful of biscuits and a few apples. But I also tried to remember 
what I was to do with Molloy, once I found him. And on myself 
too I pored, on me so changed from what I was. And I seemed to 
see myself ageing as swiftly as a day-fly. But the idea of ageing was 
not exactly the one which offered itself to me. And What I saw was 
more like a crumbling, a frenzied collapsing of all that had always 
protected me from all I was condemned to be. Or it was like a 
kind of clawing towards a light and countenance I could not name, 
that I had once known and loflg denied. But what words can 
describe this sensation at first all darkness and bulk, with a noise 
like the grinding of stones, then suddenly as soft as water flowing. 
And then I saw a little globe swaying up slowly from the depths, 
through the quiet water, smooth at first, and scarcely paler than 
its escorting ripples, then little by little a face, with holes for the 
eyes and mouth and other wounds, and nothing to show if it was 
a man’s face or a woman’s face, a young face or an old face, or 
if its calm too was not an effect of the water trembling between it 
and the light. But I confess I attended but absently to these poor 
figures, in which I suppose my sense of disaster sought to contain 
itself. And that I did not labour at them more diligently was a 
further index of the great changes I had suffered and of my grow- 
ing resignation of being dispossessed of self. And doubtless I should 
have gone from discovery to discovery, concerning myself, if I had 
persisted. But at the first faint light, I mean in these wild shadows 
gathering about me, dispensed by a vision or by an effort of thought, 
at the first light I fled to other cares. And all had been for nothing. 
And he who acted thus was a stranger to me too. For it was not 
my nature, I mean it was not my custom, to conduct my calcula- 
tions simultaneously, but separately and turn about, pushing each 
other as far as it would go before turning in desperation to another. 
Similar]'', the missing instructions concerning Molloy, when I felt 
them stirring in the depths of my memory, I turned from them in 
haste towards other unknowns. And I who a fortnight before would 
joyfully have reckoned how long I could survive on the provisions 
that remained, probably with reference to the question of calories 
and vitamins, and established in my head a series of menus asymp- 



totically approaching nutritional zero, was now content to note 
feebly that I should soon be dead of inanition, if I did not succeed 
in renewing my provisions. So much for the second day. But one 
incident remains to be noted, before I go on to the third. 

It was evening. I had lit my tire and was watching it take when 
I heard myself hailed. The voice, already so near that I started 
violently, was that of a man. But after this one violent start I 
collected myself and continued to busy myself with my fire as if 
nothing had happened, poking it with a branch I had torn from 
its tree.for the purpose a little earlier and stripped of its twigs and 
leaves and even part of its bark, with my bare nails. I have always 
loved skinning branches and laying bare the pretty white glossy 
shaft of sapwood. But obscure feelings of love and pity for the 
tree held me back most of the time. And I numbered among my 
familiars the dragon-tree of Teneriffe that perished at the age of 
five thousand years, struck by lightning. It was an example of 
longevity. The branch was thick and full of sap and did not burn 
when I stuck it in the fire. I held it by the thin end. The crackling 
of the fire, of the writhing brands rather, for fire triumphant does 
not crackle, but makes an altogether different noise, had permitted 
the man to come right up to me, without my knowledge. If there 
is one thing infuriates me it is being taken myself by surprise. I 
continued then, in spite of my spasm of fright, hoping it had passed 
unnoticed, to poke the fire as if I were alone. But at the thump 
of his hand on my shoulder I had no choice but to do what anyone 
else would have done in my place, and this I achieved by suddenly 
spinning round in what I trust was a good imitation of fear and 
anger. There I was face to face with a dim man, dim of face 
and dim of body, because of the dark. Put it there, he said. But 
little by little I formed an idea of the type of individual it was. 
And indeed there reigned between his various parts great harmony 
and concord, and it could be truly said that his face was worthy of 
his body, and vice versa. And if I could have seen his arse, I do 
not doubt I should have found it on a par with the whole. What 
are you doing in this God-forsaken place, he said, you unexpected 
pleasure. And moving aside from the fire which was now burning 
merrily, so that its light fell full on the intruder, I could see he 



was precisely the kind of pest I had thought he was, without being 
sure, because of the dark. Can you tell me, he said. I shall have 
to describe him briefly, though such a thing is contrary to my prin- 
ciples. He was on the small side, but thick-set. He wore a thick 
navy-blue suit (double-breasted) of hideous cut and a pair of out- 
rageously wide black shoes, with the toe-caps higher than the 
uppers. This dreadful shape seems only to occur in black shoes. Do 
you happen to know, he said. The fringed extremities of a dark 
muffler, seven feet long at least, wound several times round his 
neck, hung down his back. He ha*d a narrow-brimmed dark blue 
felt hat on his head, with a fish-hook and an artificial fly stuck 
in the band, which produced a highly sporting effect. Do you hear 
me? he said. But all this was nothing compared to the face which 
I regret to say vaguely resembled my own, less the refinement of 
course, same little abortive moustache, same little ferrety eyes, 
same paraphimosis of the nose, and a thin red mouth that looked 
as if it was raw from trying to shit its tongue. Hey you! he said. 
I turned back to my fire. It was doing nicely. I threw more wood 
on it. Do you hear me talking to you? he said. I went towards the 
shelter, he barred my way, emboldened by my limp. Have you a 
tongue in your head? he said. I don’t know you, I said. I laughed. 
I had not intended to be witty. Would you care to see my card? 
he said. It would mean nothing to me, I said. He came closer to 
me. Get out of my way, I said. It was his turn to laugh. You refuse 
to answer? he said. I made a great effort. What do you want to 
know? I said He must have thought I was weakening. That’s more 
like it, he said. I called to my aid the image of my son who might 
arrive at any moment. I’ve already told you, he said. I was trembl- 
ing all over. Have the goodness to tell me again, I said. To cut a 
long story short he wanted to know if I had seen an old man with 
a stick pass by. He described him. Badly. The voice seemed to 
come to ’"it from afar. No, I said. What do you mean no? he said. 
I have seen no one, I said. And yet he passed this way, he said. 
I said nothing. How long have you been here? he said. His body 
too grew dim, as if coming asunder. What is your business here? 
he said. Are you on night patrol? I said. He thrust his hand at 
me. I have an idea I told him once again to get out of my way. 



I can still see the hand coming towards me, pallid, opening and 
closing. As if self-propelled. I do not know what happened then. 
But a little later, perhaps a long time later, I found him stretched 
on the ground, his head in a pulp. I am sorry I cannot indicate 
more clearly^ how this result was obtained, it would have been 
something worth reading. But it is not at this late stage of my 
relation that I intend to give way to literature. I myself was un- 
scathed, except for a few scratches I did not discover till the 
following day. I bent over him. As I did so I realised my leg was 
bending- normally. He no longer resembled me. I took him by the 
ankles and dragged him backwards into the shelter. His shoes 
shone with highly polished blacking. He wore fancy socks. The 
trousers slid back, disclosing the white hairless legs. His ankles 
were bony, like my own. My fingers encircled them nearly. He was 
wearing suspenders, one of which had come undone and was hang- 
ing loose. This detail went to my heart. Already my knee was 
stiffening again. It no longer required to be supple. I went back 
to the shelter and took my son’s raincoat. I went back to the fire 
and lay down, with the coat over me. I did not get much sleep, 
but I got some. I listened to the owls. They were not eagle-owls, it 
was a cry like the whistle of a locomotive. I listened to a nightin- 
gale. And to distant corncrakes. If I had heard of other birds that 
cry and sing at night, I should have listened to them too. I 
watched the fire dying, my cheek pillowed on my hands. I watched 
out for the dawn. It was hardly breaking when I got up and went 
to the shelter. His legs too were on the stiff side, but there was 
still some play in the hip joints, fortunately. I dragged him into 
the copse, with frequent rests on the way, but without letting go 
his legs, so as not to have to stoop again to pick them up. Then I 
dismantled the shelter and threw the branches over the body. I 
packed and shouldered the two bags, took the raincoat and the 
umbrella. In a word I struck camp. But before leaving I consulted 
with myself to make sure I was forgetting nothing, and without 
relying on my intelligence alone, for I felt my pockets and looked 
around me. And it was while feeling my pockets that I discovered 
something of which my mind had been powerless to inform me, 
namely that my keys were no longer there. I was not long in finding 



them, scattered on the ground, the ring having broken. And to tell 
the truth first I found the chain, then the keys and last the ring, 
in two pieces. And since it was out of the question, even with the 
help of my umbrella, to stoop each time to pick up a key, I put 
down my bags, my umbrella and the coat and lay down flat on my 
stomach among the keys which in this way I was afte to recover 
without much difficulty. And when a key was beyond my reach 
I took hold of the grass and dragged myself over to it. And I 
wiped each key on the grass, before putting it in my pocket, whether 
it needed wiping or not. And front time to time I raised myself on 
my hands, to get a better view. And in this way I located a number 
of keys at some distance from me, and these I reached by rolling 
over and over, like a great cylinder. And finding no more keys, I 
said. There is no use my counting them, for I do not know how 
many there were. And my eyes resumed their search. But finally 
I said. Hell to it. I’ll do with those I have. And while looking in 
this way for my keys I found an ear which I threw into the copse. 
And, to my even greater surprise, I found my straw hat which I 
thought was on my head! One of the holes for the elastic had 
expanded to the edge of the rim and consequently was no longer 
a hole, but a slit. But the other had been spared and the elastic 
was still in it. And finally I said, I shall rise now and, from my 
full height, run my eyes over this area for the last time. Which I 
did. It was then I found the ring, first one piece, then the other. 
Then, finding nothing more belonging cither to me or to my son, I 
shouldered my bags again, jammed the straw-hat hard down on 
my skull, folded my son’s raincoat over my arm, caught up the 
umbrella and went. 

But I did not go far. For I soon stopped on the crest of a rise 
from where I could survey, without fatigue, the camp-site and the 
surrounding country. And I made this curious observation, that 
the land from where I was, and even the clouds in the sky, were 
so disposed as to lead the eyes gently to the camp, as in a painting 
by an old master. I made myself as comfortable as possible. 
I got rid of my various burdens and I ate a whole tin of 
sardines and one apple. I lay down flat on my stomach on my 
son’s coat. And now I propped my elbows on the ground and my 



jaws between my hands, which carried my eyes towards the horizon, 
and now I made a little cushion of my two hands on the ground and 
laid my cheek upon it, five minutes one, five minutes the other, 
all the while flat on my stomach. I could have made myself a 
pillow of thojiags, but I did not, it did not occur to me. The day 
passed tranquilly, without incident. And the only thing that re- 
lieved the monotony of this third day was a dog. When I first 
saw him he was sniffing about the remains of my fire, then he 
went into the copse. But I did not see him come out again, either 
because thy- attention was elsewhere, or because he went out the 
other side, having simply, as it were, gone straight through it. 
I mended my hat, that is to say with the tin-opener I pierced 
a new hole beside the old one and made fast the elastic again. 
And I also mended the ring, twisting the two pieces together, and 
I slipped on the keys and made fast the long chain again. And to 
kill time I asked myself a certain number of questions and tried to 
answer them. For example. 

Question. What had happened to the blue felt hat? 


Question. Would they not suspect the old man with the stick? 

Answer. Very probably. 

Question. What were his chances of exonerating himself? 

Answer. Slight. 

Question. Should I tell my son what had happened? 

Answer. No, for then it would be his duty to denounce me. 

Question. Would he denounce me? 


Question. How did I feel? 

Answer. Much as usual. 

Question. And yet I had changed and was still changing? 

Answer. Yes. 

Question. And in spite of this I felt much as usual? 

Answer. Yes. 

Question. How was this to be explained? 


These questions and others too were separated by more or 
less prolonged intervals of time not only from one another, but 



also from the answers appertaining to them. And the answers did 
not always follow in the order of the questions. But while looking 
for the answer, or the answers, to a given question, I found the 
answer, or the answers, to a question I had already asked myself 
in vain, in the sense that I had not been able to answer it, or I 
found another question, or other questions, demanding in their 
turn an immediate answer. 

Translating myself now in imagination to the present moment, 
I declare the foregoing to have been written with a firm and even 
satisfied hand, and a mind calmer than it has been for a long time. 
For I shall be far away, before these lines are read, in a place 
where no one will dream of coming to look for me. And then 
Youdi will take care of me, he will not let me be punished for a 
fault committed in the execution of my duty. And they can do 
nothing to my son, rather they will commiserate with him on hav- 
ing had such a father, and offers of help and expressions of esteem 
will pour in upon him from every side. 

So this third day wore away. And about five o’clock I ate 
my last tin of sardines and a few biscuits, with a good appetite. 
This left me with only a few apples and a few biscuits. But about 
seven o’clock my son arrived. The sun was low in the west. I must 
have dozed a moment, for I did not see him coming, a speck on 
the horizon, then rapidly bigger and bigger, as I had foreseen. 
But he was already between me and the camp, making for the 
latter, when I saw him. A wave of irritation broke over me, I 
jumped to my feet and began to vociferate, brandishing the um- 
brella. He turned and I beckoned him to join me, waving the um- 
brella as if I wanted to hook something with the handle. I thought 
for a moment he was going to defy me and continue on his way 
to the camp, to where the camp had been rather, for it was there 
no more. But finally he came towards me. He was pushing a 
bicycle which, when he had joined me, he let fall with a gesture 
signifying he could bear no more. Pick it up, I said, till I look 
at it. I had to admit it must once have been quite a good bicycle. 
I would gladly describe it, I would gladly write four thousand 
words on it alone. And you call that a bicycle? I said. Only half 
expecting him to answer me I continued to inspect it. But there 



was something so strange in his silence that I looked up at him. 
His eyes were starting out of his head. What’s the matter, I said, 
is my fly open? He let go the bicycle again. Pick it up, I said. He 
picked it up. What happened to you? he said. I had a fall, I said. 
A fall? he said. Yes, a fall, I cried, did you never have a fall? I 
tried to remember the name of the plant that springs from the 
ejaculations of the hanged and shrieks when plucked. How much 
did you give for it? I said. Four pounds, he said. Four pounds! 
I cried. If he had said two pounds or even thirty shillings I should 
have cried. Two pounds ! or Thirty shillings ! the same. They asked 
four pounds five, he said. Have you the receipt? I said. He did not 
know what a receipt was. I described one. The money I spent on 
my son’s education and he did not know what a simple receipt 
was. But I think he knew as well as I. For when I said to him. 
Now tell me what a receipt is, he told me very prettily. I really 
did not care in the least whether he had been fooled into paying 
for the bicycle three or four times what it was worth or whether 
on the other hand he had appropriated the best part of the pur- 
chase money for his own use. The loss would not be mine. Give 
me the ten shillings, I said. I spent them, he said. Enough, enough. 
He began explaining that the first day the shops had been closed, 
that the second — . I said. Enough, enough. I looked at the carrier. 
It was the best thing about that bicycle. It and the pump. Does 
it go by any chance? I said. I had a puncture two miles from Hole, 
he said, I walked the rest of the way. I looked at his shoes. Pump 
it up, I said. I held the bicycle. I forget which wheel it was. As 
soon as two things are nearly identical I am lost. The dirty little 
twister was letting the air escape between the valve and the con- 
nection which he had purposely not screwed tight. Hold the bicycle, 
I said, and give me the pump. The tyre was soon hard. I looked 
at my son. He began to protest. I soon put a stop to that. Five 
minutes later I felt the tyre. It was as hard as ever. I cursed him. 
He took a bar of chocolate from his pocket and offered it to me. 
I took it. But instead of eating it, as I longed to, and although I 
have a horror of waste, I cast it from me, after a moment’s hesi- 
tation, which 1 trust my son did not notice. Enough. We went 
down the road. It was more like a path. I tried to sit down on the 



carrier. The foot of my stiff leg tried to sink into the ground, 
into the grave. I propped myself up on one of the bags. Keep 
her steady, I said. I was still too low. I added the other. Its bulges 
dug into my buttocks. The more things resist me the more rabid 
I get. With time, and nothing but my teeth and na^jls, I would 
rage up from the bowels of the earth to its crust, knowing full 
well I had nothing to gain. And when I had no more teeth, no 
more nails, I would dig through the rock with my bones. Here 
then in a few words is the solution I arrived at. First the bags, 
then my son’s raincoat folded in f&ur, all lashed to the carrier and 
the saddle with my son’s bits of string. As for the umbrella, I 
hooked it round my neck, so as to have both hands free to hold 
on to my son by the waist, under the aimpits rather, for by this 
time my seat was higher than his. Pedal, I said. He made a des- 
pairing effort, I can well believe it. We fell. I felt a sharp pain in 
my shin. I was all tangled up in the back wheel. Help! I cried. 
My son helped me up. My stocking was torn and my leg bleeding. 
Happily it was the sick leg. What would I have done, with both 
legs out of action? I would have found a way. It was even per- 
haps a blessing in disguise. I was thinking of phlebotomy of course. 
Are you all right? I said. Yes, he said. He would be. With my 
umbrella I caught him a smart blow on the hamstrings, gleaming 
between the leg of his shorts and his stocking. He cried out. Do 
you want to kill us? I said. I’m not strong enough, he said, I’m 
not strong enough. The bicycle was all right apparently, the back 
wheel slightly buckled perhaps. I at once saw the error I had 
made. It was to have settled down in my seat, with my feet 
clear of the ground, before we moved off. I reflected. We’ll 
try again, I said. I can’t, he said. Don’t try me too far, 
I said. He straddled the frame. Start off gently when I tell you, I 
said. I got up again behind and settled down in my seat, with my 
feet clear of the ground. Good. Wait till I tell you, I said. I let 
myself slide to one side till the foot of my good leg touched the 
ground. The only weight now on the back wheel was that of my 
sick leg, cocked up rigid at an excruciating angle. I dug my Angers 
into my son’s jacket. Go easy, I said. The wheels began to turn. I 
followed, half dragged, half hopping. I trembled for my testicles 



which swung a little low. Faster! I cried. He bore down on the 
pedals. I bounded up to my place. The bicycle swayed, righted 
itself, gained speed. Bravo ! I cried, beside myself with joy. Hurrah ! 
cried my son. How I loathe that exclamation! I can hardly set it 
down. He was as pleased as I, I do believe. His heart was beating 
under my hand and yet my hand was far from his heart. Happily 
it was downhill. Happily I had mended my hat, or the wind would 
have blown it away. Happily the weather was fine and I no longer 
alone. Happily, happily. 

In this way we came to Ballyba. I shall not tell of the ob- 
stacles we had to surmount, the fiends we had to circumvent, the 
misdemeanours of the son, the disintegrations of the father. It was 
my intention, almost my desire, to tell of all these things, I re- 
joiced at the thought that the moment would come when I might 
do so. Now the intention is dead, the moment is come and the 
desire is gone. My leg was no better. It was no worse either. The 
skin had healed. I would never have got there alone. It was thanks 
to my son. What? That I got there. He often complained of his 
health, his stomach, his teeth. I gave him some morphine. He 
looked worse and worse. When I asked him what was wrong he 
could not tell me. We had trouble with the bicycle. But I patched 
it up. I would not have got there without my son. We were a 
long time getting there. Weeks. We kept losing our way, taking 
our time. I still did not know what I was to do with Molloy, 
when I found him. I thought no more about it. I thought about 
myself, much, as we went along, sitting behind my son, looking 
over his head, and in the evening, when we camped, while he 
made himself useful, and when he went away, leaving me alone. 
For he often went away, to spy out the lie of the land and to buy 
provisions. I did practically nothing any more. He took good care 
of me, I must say. He was clumsy, stupid, slow, dirty, untruthful, 
deceitful, prodigal, unfilial, but he did not abandon me. I thought 
much about myself. That is to say I often took a quick look at 
myself, closed my eyes, forgot, began again. We took a long time 
getting to Ballyba, we even got there without knowing it. Stop, 
I said to my son one day. I had just caught sight of a shepherd 
I liked the look of. He was sitting on the ground stroking his dog. 



A flock of black shorn sheep strayed about them, unafraid. What 
a pastoral land, my God. Leaving my son on the side of the road 
I went towards them, across the grass. I often stopped and rested, 
leaning on my umbrella. The shepherd watched me as I came, 
without getting up. The dog too, without barking. Tjj^ sheep too. 
Yes, little by little, one by one, they turned and faced' me, watching 
me as I came. Here and there faint movements of recoil, a tiny 
foot stamping the ground, betrayed their uneasiness. They did not 
seem timid, as sheep go. And my son of course watched me as 
I went, I felt his eyes in my back*. The silence was absolute. Pro- 
found in any case. All things considered it was a solemn moment. 
The weather was divine. It was the close of day. Each time I 
stopped I looked about me. I looked at the shepherd, the sheep, 
the dog and even at the sky. But when I moved I saw nothing 
but the ground and the play of my feet, the good one springing 
forward, holding back, setting itself down, waiting for the other 
to come up. I came finally to a halt about ten paces from the 
shepherd. There was no use going any further. How I would love 
to dwell upon him. His dog loved him, his sheep did not fear him. 
Soon he would rise, feeling the falling dew. The fold was far, far, 
he would see from afar the light in his cot. Now I was in the midst 
of the sheep, they made a circle round me. their eyes converged on 
me. Perhaps I was the butcher come to make his choice. I took 
off my hat. I saw the dog's eyes following the movement of my 
hand. I looked about me again incapable of speech. I did not know 
how I would ever be able to break this silence. I was on the point 
of turning away without having spoken. Finally I said, Ballyba, 
hoping it sounded like a question. The shepherd drew the pipe from 
his mouth and pointed the stem at the ground. I longed to say. 
Take me with you, I will serve you faithfully, just for a place to 
lie and a little food. I had understood, but without seeming to I 
suppose, ior he repeated his gesture, pointing the stem of his pipe 
at the ground, several times. Bally, I said. He raised one hand, it 
wavered an instant as if over a map, then stiffened. The pipe still 
smoked faintly, the smoke hung blue in the air an instant, then 
vanished. I looked in the direction indicated. The dog too. We were 
all three turned to the north. The sheep were losing interest in 



me. Perhaps they had understood. I heard them straying about 
again and grazing. I distinguished at last, at the limit of the plain, 
a dim glow, the sum of countless points of light blurred by the 
distance, I thought of Juno’s milk. It lay like a faint splash on the 
sharp dark^ sweep of the horizon. I gave thanks for evening that 
brings out trie lights, the stars in the sky and on earth the brave 
little lights of men. By day the shepherd would have raised his 
pipe in vain, towards the long clear-cut commissure of earth and 
sky. But now I felt the man turning towards me again, and the 
dog, and the man drawing on nis pipe again, in the hope it had 
not gone out. And I knew I was all alone gazing at that distant 
glow that would get brighter and brighter, I knew that too, then 
suddenly go out. And I did not like the feeling of being alone, with 
my son perhaps, no, alone, spellbound. And I was wondering 
how to depart without self-loathing or sadness, or with as little as 
possible, when a kind of immense sigh all round me announced 
it was not I who was departing, but the flock. I watched them 
move away, the man in front, then the sheep, huddled together, 
their heads sunk, jostling one another, breaking now and then into 
a little trot, snatching blindly without stopping a last mouthful 
from the earth, and last of all the dog, jauntily, waving his long 
black plumy tail, though there was no one to witness his content- 
ment, if that is what it was. And so in perfect order, the shepherd 
silent and the dog unheeded, the little flock departed. And so no 
doubt they would plod on, until they came to the stable or the 
fold. And there the shepherd stands aside to let them pass and 
he counts them as they go by, though he knows not one is missing. 
Then he turns towards his cottage, the kitchen door is open, the 
lamp is burning, he goes in and sits down at the table, without 
taking off his hat. But the dog stops at the threshold, not knowing 
whether he may go in or whether he must stay out, all night. 

That night I had a violent scene with my son. I do not remem- 
ber about what. Wait, it may be important. 

No, I don’t know. I must have had so many scenes with my 
son. At the time it must have seemed a scene like any other, 
that’s all I know. 

I must have got the better of it as I always did, thanks to my 



infallible technique, and brought him unerringly to a proper sense 
of his iniquities. But the next day I realised my mistake. For 
waking early I found myself alone, in the shelter, I who was 
always the first to wake. And what is more my instinct told me 
I had been alone for some considerable time, my breatj^no longer 
mingling with the breath of my son, in the narrow shelter he had 
erected, under my supervision. Not that the fact of his having 
disappeared with the bicycle, during the night or with the first 
guilty flush of dawn, was in itself a matter for grave anxiety. And 
I would have found excellent and ’honourable reasons for this, if 
this had been all. Unfortunately he had taken his knapsack and 
his raincoat. And there remained nothing in the shelter, nor outside 
the shelter, belonging to him, absolutely nothing. And this was 
not yet all, for he had left with a considerable sum of money, he 
who was only entitled to a few pence from time to time, for his 
savings-box. For since he had been in charge of everything, under 
my supervision of course, and notably of the shopping, I was 
obliged to place a certain reliance on him in the matter of money. 
And he always had a far greater sum in his pocket than was 
strictly necessary. And in order to make all this sound more likely 
I shall add what follows. 

1. I desired him to learn double-entry book-keeping and had 
instructed him in its rudiments. 

2. I could no longer be bothered with these wretched trifles 
which had once been my delight. 

3. I had told him to keep an eye out, on his expeditions, for 
a second bicycle, light and inexpensive. For I was weary of the 
carrier and I also saw the day approaching when my son would 
no longer have the strength to pedal for the two of us. And I 
believed I was capable, more than that, I knew I was capable, with 
a little practice, of learning to pedal witn one leg. And then I would 
resume rrj ' rightful place, I mean in the van. And my son would 
follow me. And then the scandal would cease of my son’s defy- 
ing me, and going left when I told him right, or right when I told 
him left, or straight on when I told him right or left as he had been 
doing of late, more and more frequently. 

That is all I wished to add. 



But on examining my pocket-book I found it contained no 
more than fifteen shillings, which led me to the conclusion that 
my son had not been content with the sum already in his possession, 
but had gone through my pockets, before he left, while I slept. 
And the ^yjuman breast is so bizarre that my first feeling was of 
gratitude for his leaving me this little sum, enough to keep me 
going until help arrived, and I saw in this a kind of delicacy ! 

I was therefore alone, with my bag, my umbrella (which he 
might easily have taken too) and fifteen shillings, knowing myself 
coldly abandoned, with deliberation and no doubt premeditation, in 
Ballyba it is true, if indeed I was in Ballyba, but still far from 
Bally. And I remained for several days, I do not know how many, in 
the place where my son had abandoned me, eating my last pro- 
visions (which he might easily have taken too), seeing no living 
soul, powerless to act, or perhaps strong enough at last to act no 
more. For I had no illusions, I knew that all was about to end, 
or to begin again, it little mattered which, and it little mattered 
how, I had only to wait. And on and off, for fun, and the better 
to scatter them to the winds, I dallied with the hopes that spring 
eternal, childish hopes, as for example that my son, his anger 
spent, would have pity on me and come back to me! Or that 
Molloy, whose country this was, would come to me, who had not 
been able to go to him, and grow to be a friend, and like a father 
to me, and help me do what I had to do, so that Youdi would not 
be angry with me and would not punish me! Yes, I let them spring 
within me and grow in strength, brighten and charm me with a 
thousand fancies, and then I swept them away, with a great dis- 
gusted sweep of all my being, I swept myself clean of them and 
surveyed with satisfaction the void they had polluted. And in the 
evening I turned to the lights of Bally, I watched them shine 
brighter and brighter, then all go out together, or nearly all, foul 
little flickering lights of terrified men. And I said. To think I might 
be there now, but for my misfortune! And with regard to the 
Obidil, of whom I have refrained from speaking, until now, and 
whom I so longed to see face to face, all I can say with regard to 
him is this, that I never saw him, either face to face or darkly, 
perhaps there is no such person, that would not greatly surprise me. 



And at the thought of the punishments Youdi might inflict upon 
me I was seized by such a mighty fit of laughter that I shook, with 
mighty silent laughter and my features composed in their wonted 
sadness and calm. But my whole body shook, and even my legs, 
so that I had to lean against a tree, or against a bujW when the 
fit came on me standing, my umbrella being no longer sufficient 
to keep me from falling. Strange laughter truly, and no doubt 
misnamed, through indolence perhaps, or ignorance. And as for 
myself, that unfailing pastime, I must say it was far now from my 
thoughts. But there were moments when it did not seem so far 
from me, when I seemed to be drawing towards it as the sands 
towards the wave, when it crests and whitens, though I must say 
this image hardly fitted my situation, which was rather that of 
the turd waiting for the flush. And I note here the little beat my 
heart once missed, in my home, when a fly, flying low above my 
ash-tray, raised a little ash, with the breath of its wings. And I 
grew gradually weaker and weaker and more and more content. 
For several days I had eaten nothing. I could probably have found 
blackberries and mushrooms, but I had no wish for them. I re- 
mained all day stretched out in the shelter, vaguely regretting my 
son’s raincoat, and I crawled out in the evening to have a good 
laugh at the lights of Bally. And though suffering a little from wind 
and cramps in the stomach I felt extraordinarily content, content 
with myself, almost elated, enchanted with my performance. And 
I said, I shall soon lose consciousness altogether, it is merely a 
question of time. But Gaber’s arrival put a stop to these frolics. 

It was evening. I had just crawled out of the shelter for my 
evening guffaw and the better to savour my exhaustion. He had 
already been there for some time. He was sitting on a tree-stump, 
half asleep. Well Moran, he said. You recognise me? I said. He 
took out and opened his notebook, licked his finger, turned over 
the pagwS till he came to the right page, raised it towards his eyes 
which at the same time he lowered towards it. I can see nothing, 
he said. He was dressed as when I had last seen him. My strictures 
on his Sunday clothes had therefore been unjustified. Unless it 
was Sunday again. But had I not always seen him dressed in this 
way? Would you have a match? he said. I did not recognise this 



far-off voice. Or a torch, he said. He must have seen from my face 
that I possessed nothing of a luminous nature. He took a small 
electric torch from his pocket and shone it on his page. He read, 
Moran, Jacques, home, instanter. He put out his torch, closed his 
notebook his finger and looked at me. I can’t walk, I said. 
What? he said. I’m sick, I can’t move, I said. I can’t hear a word 
you say, he said. I cried to him that I could not move, that I was 
sick, that I should have to be carried, that my son had abandoned 
me, that I could bear no more. He examined me laboriously from 
head to' foot. I executed a few steps leaning on my umbrella to 
prove to him I could not walk. He opened his notebook again, 
shone the torch on his page, studied it at length and said, Moran, 
home, instanter. He closed his notebook, put it back in his pocket, 
put his lamp back in his pocket, stood up, drew his hands over 
his chest and announced he was dying of thirst. Not a word on how 
I was looking. And yet I had not shaved since the day my son 
brought back the bicycle from Hole, nor combed my hair, nor 
washed, not to mention all the privations I had suffered and the 
great inward metamorphoses. Do you recognise me? I cried. Do I 
recognise you? he said. He reflected. I knew what he was doing, 
he was searching for the phrase most apt to wound me. Ah Moran, 
he said, what a man! I was staggering with weakness. If I had 
dropped dead at his feet he would have said. Ah poor old Moran, 
that’s him all over. It was getting darker and darker. I wondered 
if it was really Gaber. Is he angry? I said. You wouldn’t have a sup 
of beer by any chance? he said. I’m asking you if he is angry, I 
cried. Angry, said Gaber, don’t make me laugh, he keeps rubbing 
his hands from morning to night, I can hear them in the outer 
room. That means nothing, I said. And chuckling to himself, said 
Gaber. He must be angry with me, I said. Do you know what he 
told me the other day? said Gaber. Has he changed? I cried. 
Changed, said Gaber, no he hasn’t changed, why would he have 
changed, he’s getting old, that’s all, like the world. You have a 
queer voice this evening, I said. I do not think he heard me. Well, 
he said, drawing his hands once more over his chest, downwards. 
I’ll be going, if that’s all you have to ;say to me. He went, without 
saying goodbye. But I overtook him, in spite of my loathing for 



him, in spite of my weakness and my sick leg, and held him back 
by the sleeve. What did he tell you? I said. He stopped. Moran, he 
said, you are beginning to give me a serious pain in the arse. For 
pity’s sake, I said, tell me what he told you. He gave me a shove. 
I fell. He had not intended to make me fall, he did41ot realise 
the state I was in, he had only wanted to push me away. I did not 
try to get up. I let out a roar. He came and bent over me. He had a 
walrus moustache, chestnut in colour. I saw it lift, the lips open, 
and almost at the same time I heard words of solicitude, at a great 
distance. He was not brutal, Gaber,* I knew him well. Gaber, I said, 
it’s not much I’m asking you. I remember this scene well. He 
wanted to help me up. I pushed him away. I was all right where 
I was. What did he tell you? I said. I don’t understand, said Gaber. 
You were saying a minute ago that he had told you something, 
I said, then I cut you short. Short? said Gaber. Do you know what 
he told me the other day, I said, those were your very words. His 
face lit up. The clod was just about as quick as my son. He said to 
me, said Gaber, Gaber, he said — . Louder! I cried. He said to me, 
said Gaber, Gaber, he said, life is a thing of beauty, Gaber, and a 
joy for ever. He brought his face nearer mine. A joy for ever, he 
said, a thing of beauty, Moran, and a joy for ever. He smiled. I 
closed my eyes. Smiles arc all very nice in their own way, very 
heartening, but at a reasonable distance. I said. Do you think he 
meant human life? I listened. Perhaps he didn’t mean human 
life, I said. I opened my eyes. I was alone. My hands were full 
of grass and earth I had torn up unwittingly, was still tearing up. 
I was literally uprooting. I desisted, yes, the second I realised what 
I had done, what I was doing, such a nasty thing, I desisted from 
it, I opened my hands, they were soon empty. 

That night I set out for home. I did not get far. But it was a 
start. It is the first step that counts. The second counts less. Each 
day saw me advance a little further. That last sentence is not 
clear, it docs not say what I hoped it would. I counted at first 
by tens of steps. I stopped when I could go no further and I said, 
Bravo, that makes so many tens, so many more than yesterday. 
Then I counted by fifteens, by twenties and finally by fifties. Yes, 
in the end I could go fifty steps before having to stop, for rest. 



leaning on my faithful umbrella. In the beginning I must have 
strayed a little in Ballyba, if I really was in Ballyba. Then I fol- 
lowed more or less the same paths we had taken on the way out. 
But paths look different, when you go back along them. I ate, in 
obedienc^o the voice of reason, all that nature, the woods, the 
fields, the waters had to offer me in the way of edibles. I finished 
the morphine. 

It was in August, in September at the latest, that I was ordered 
home. It was spring when I got there, I will not be more precise. 
I had therefore been all winter on the way. 

Anyone else would have lain down in the snow, firmly re- 
solved never to rise again. Not I. I used to think that men would 
never get the better of me. I still think I am cleverer than things. 
There are men and there are things, to hell with animals. And with 
God. When a thing resists me, even if it is for my own good, it 
does not resist me long. This snow, for example. Though to tell the 
truth it lured me more than it resisted me. But in a sense it 
resisted me. That was enough. I vanquished it, grinding my teeth 
with joy, it is quite possible to grind one’s incisors. I forged my 
way through it, towards what I would have called my ruin if I 
could have conceived what I had left to be ruined. Perhaps I have 
conceived it since, perhaps I have not done conceiving it, it takes 
time, one is bound to in time, I am bound to. But on the way 
home, a prey to the malignancy of man and nature and my own 
failing flesh, I could not conceive it. My knee, allowance made for 
the dulling effects of habit, was neither more nor less painful than 
the first day. The disease, whatever it was, was dormant! How can 
such things be? But to return to the flies, I like to think of those 
that hatch out at the beginning of winter, within doors, and die 
shortly after. You see them crawling and fluttering in the warm 
corners, puny, sluggish, torpid, mute. That is you see an odd one 
now and then. They must die very young, without having been 
able to lay. You sweep them away, you push them into the dust-pan 
with the brush, without knowing. That is a strange race of flies. But 
I was succumbing to other affections, that is not the word, intestinal 
for the most part, I would have described them once, not now, 
I am sorry, it would have been worth reading. I shall merely say 



that no one else would have surmounted them, without help. But 
I ! Bent double, my free hand pressed to my belly, I advanced, and 
every now and then I let out a roar, of triumph and distress. Certain 
mosses I consumed must have disagreed with me. I if I once 
made up my mind not to keep the hangman waiting, dlfe bloody 
flux itself would not stop me, I would get there on all fours shit- 
ting out my entrails and chanting maledictions. Didn’t I tell you 
it’s my brethren that have done for me. 

But I shall not dwell upon thip journey home, its furies and 
treacheries. And I shall pass over in silence the fiends in human 
shape and the phantoms of the dead that tried to prevent me from 
getting home, in obedience to Youdi’s command. But one or two 
words nevertheless, for my own edification and to prepare my soul 
to make an end. To begin with my rare thoughts. 

Certain questions of a theological nature preoccupied me 
strangely. As for example. 

1. What value is to be attached to the theory that Eve sprang, 
not from Adam’s rib, but from a tumour in the fat of his leg (arse?). 

2. Did the serpent crawl or, as Comestor affirms, walk upright? 

3. Did Mary conceive through the ear, as Augustine and 
Adobard assert? 

4. How much longer are we to hang about waiting for the 

5. Does it really matter which hand is employed to absterge 
the podex? 

6. What is one to think of the Irish oath sworn by the natives 
with the right hand on the relics of the saints and the left on the 
virile member? 

7. Does nature observe the sabbath? 

8. Is it true that the devils do not feel the pains of hell? 

9. The algebraic theology of Craig. What is one to think of 


10. Is it true that the infant Saint-Roch refused suck on Wed- 
nesdays and Fridays? 

11. What is one to think of the excommunication of vermin in 
the sixteenth century? 

12. Ja one to approve of the Italian cobbler Lovat who, having 



cut off his testicles, crucified himself. 

13. What was God doing with himself before the creation? 

14. Might not the beatific vision become a source of boredom, 
in the long run? 

15. fcj’it true that Judas’ torments are suspended on Saturdays? 

16. What if the mass for the dead were read over the living? 

And I recited the pretty quietist Pater, Our Father who art no 

more in heaven than on earth or in hell, I neither want nor desire 
that thy name be hallowed, thou knowest best what suits thee. Etc. 
The middle and the end are very pretty. 

It was in this frivolous and charming world that I took refuge, 
when my cup ran over. 

But I asked myself other questions concerning me perhaps 
more closely. As for example. 

1. Why had I not borrowed a few shillings from Gaber? 

2. Why had I obeyed the order to go home? 

3. What had become of Molloy? 

4. Same question for me. 

5. What would become of me? 

6. Same question for my son. 

7. Was his mother in heaven? 

8. Same question for my mother. 

9. Would I go to heaven ? 

10. Would we all meet again in heaven one day, I, my mother, 
my son, his mother, Youdi, Gaber, Molloy, his mother, Yerk, 
Murphy, Watt, Camier and the rest? 

11. What had become of my hens, my bees? Was my grey hen 
still living? 

12. Zulu, the Eisner sisters, were they still living? 

13. Was Youdi’s business address still 8, Acacia Square? 
What if I wrote to him? What if I went to see him? I would explain 
to him. What would I explain to him? I would crave his forgive- 
ness. Forgiveness for what? 

14. Was not the winter exceptionally severe? 

15. How long had I gone now without either confession or 

16. What was the name of the martyr who, being in prison. 



loaded with chains, covered with wounds and vermin, unable to 
stir, celebrated the consecration on his stomach and gave himself 

17. What would I do until my death? Was there no means of 
hastening this, without falling into a state of sin? 

But before I launch my body properly so-called across these 
icy, then, with the thaw, muddy solitudes, I wish to say that I 
often thought of my bees, more often than of my hens, and God 
knows I thought often of my hens. And 1 thought above all of 
their dance, for my bees danced, oh not as men dance, to amuse 
themselves, but in a dilfercnt way. I alone of all mankind knew 
this, to the best of my belief. I had investigated this phenomenon 
very fully. The dance was best to be observed among the bees re- 
turning to the hive, laden more or less with nectar, and it involved 
a great variety of figures and rhythms. These evolutions I finally 
interpreted as a system of signals by means of which the incoming 
bees, satisfied or dissatisfied with their plunder, informed the out- 
going bees in what direction to go, and in what not to go. But the 
outgoing bees danced too. It was no doubt their way of saying, 
I understand, or. Don’t worry about me. But away from the hive, 
and busily at work, the bees did not dance. Here their watchword 
seemed to be. Every man for himself, assuming bees to be capable 
of such notions. The most striking feature of the dance was its 
very complicated figures, traced in flight, and I had classified a 
great number of these, with their probable meanings. But there 
was also the question of the hum, so various in tone in the vicinity 
of the hive that this could hardly be an effect of chance. I first con- 
cluded that each figure was reinforced by means of a hum peculiar 
to it. But I was forced to abandon this agreeable hypothesis. For 
I saw the same figure (at least what I called the same figure) ac- 
companied by very different hums. So that I said. The purpose of 
the hum ' is not to emphasise the dance, but on the contrary to 
vary it. And the same figure exactly differs in meaning according 
to the hum that goes with it. And I had collected and classified a 
great number of observations on this subject, with gratifying results. 
But there was to be considered not only the figure and the hum, 
but also the height at which the figure was executed. And I acquired 



the conviction that the selfsame figure, accompanied by the self- 
same hum, did not mean at all the same thing at twelve feet from 
the ground as it did at six. For the bees did not dance at any level, 
haphazard, but there were three or four levels, always the same, 
at which tftey danced. And if I were to tell you what these levels 
were, and what the relations between them, for I had measured 
them with care, you would not believe me. And this is not the 
moment to jeopardise my credit. Sometimes you would think I was 
writing for the public. And in spite of all the pains I have lavished 
on these problems, I was more than ever stupefied by the complexity 
of this innumerable dance, involving doubtless other determinants 
of which I had not the slightest idea. And I said, with rapture. Here 
is something I can study all my life, and never understand. And all 
during this long journey home, when I racked my mind for a little 
joy in store, the thought of my bees and their dance was the nearest 
thing to comfort. For I was still eager for my little joy, from time 
to time! And I admitted with good grace the possibility that this 
dance was after all no better than the dances of the people of the 
West, frivolous and meaningless. But for me, sitting near my sun- 
drenched hives, it would always be a noble thing to contemplate, 
too noble ever to be sullied by the cogitations of a man like me, 
exiled in his manhood. And I would never do my bees the wrong 
I had done my God, to whom I had been taught to ascribe my 
angers, fears, desires, and even my body. 

I have spoken of a voice giving me orders, or rather advice. 
It was on the way home I heard it for the first time. I paid no 
attention to it. 

Physically speaking it seemed to me I was now becoming 
rapidly unrecognisable. And when I passed my hands over my 
face, in a characteristic and now more than ever pardonable gesture, 
the face my hands felt was not my face any more, and the hands 
my face felt were my hands no longer. And yet the gist of the 
sensation was the same as in the far-off days when I was well- 
shaven and perfumed and proud of my intellectual’s soft white 
hands. And this belly I did not know remained my belly, my old 
belly, thanks to I know not what intuition. And to tell the truth 
I not only knew who I was, but I had a sharper and clearer sense 



of my identity than ever before, in spite of its deep lesions and the 
wounds with which it was covered. And from this point of view 
I was less fortunate than my other acquaintances. I am sorry if 
this last phrase is not so happy as it might be. It deserved, who 
knows, to be without ambiguity. 

Then there are the clothes that cleave so close to the body 
and are so to speak inseparable from it, in time of peace. Yes, I 
have always been very sensitive to clothing, though not in the least 
a dandy. I had not to complain of mine, tough and of good cut. 
I was of course inadequately covered, but whose fault was that? 
And I had to part with my straw, not made to resist the rigours 
of winter, and with my stockings (two pairs) which the cold and 
damp, the trudging and the lack of laundering facilities had literally 
annihilated. But I let out my braces to their fullest extent and my 
knickerbockers, very baggy as the fashion is, came down to my 
calves. And at the sight of the blue flesh, between the knicker- 
bockers and the tops of my boots, I sometimes thought of my son 
and the blow I had fetched him, so avid is the mind of the flimsiest 
analogy. My boots became rigid, from lack of proper care. So skin 
defends itself, when dead and tanned. The air coursed through 
them freely, preserving perhaps my feet from freezing. And I had 
likewise sadly to part with my drawers (two pairs). They had 
rotted, from constant contact with my incontinences. Then the seat 
of my breeches, before it too decomposed, sawed my crack from 
Dan to Beersheba. What else did I have to discard? My shirt? 
Never! But I often wore it inside out and back to front. Let me 
see. I had four ways of wearing my shirt. Front to front right side 
out, front to front inside out, back to front right side out, back to 
front inside out. And the fifth day I began again. It was in the 
hope of making it last. Did this make it last? I do not know. It 
lasted. To major things the surest road is on the minor pains 
bestowed, if you don’t happen to be in a hurry. But what else did 
I have to discard? My hard collars, yes, I discarded them all, and 
even before they were quite worn and torn. But I kept my tie, I even 
wore it, knotted round my bare neck, out of sheer bravado I 
suppose. It was a spotted tie, but I forget the colour. 

When it rained, when it snowed, when it hailed, then I found 



myself faced with the following dilemma. Was I to go on leaning 
on my umbrella and get drenched or was I to stop and take shelter 
under my open umbrella? It was a false dilemma, as so many 
dilemmas are. For on the one hand all that remained of the canopy 
of my unibrella was a few flitters of silk fluttering from the stays 
and on the other I could have gone on, very slowly, using the um- 
brella no longer as a support, but as a shelter. But I was so accus- 
tomed, on the one hand to the perfect watertightness of my expen- 
sive umbrella, and on the other hand to being unable to walk 
without its support, that the dilemma remained entire, for me. I 
could of course have made myself a stick, out of a branch, and 
gone on, in spite of the rain, the snow, the hail, leaning on the 
stick and the umbrella open above me. But I did not, I do not 
know why. But when the rain descended, and the other things that 
descend upon us from above, sometimes I pushed on, leaning on 
the umbrella, getting drenched, but most often I stopped dead, 
opened the umbrella above me and waited for it to be over. Then 
I got equally drenched. But that was not the point. And if it had 
suddenly begun to rain manna I would have waited, stock-still, 
under my umbrella, for it to be over, before taking advantage of it. 
And when my arm was weary of holding up the umbrella, then I 
gave it to the other hand. And with my free hand I slapped and 
rubbed every part of my body within its reach, in order to keep 
the blood trickling freely, or I drew it over my face, in a gesture 
that was characteristic, of me. And the long spike of my umbrella 
was like a finger. My best thoughts came to me during these halts. 
But when it was clear that the rain, etc., would not stop all day, 
or all night, then I did the sensible thing and built myself a proper 
shelter. But I did not like proper shelters, made of boughs, any 
more. For soon there were no more leaves, but only the needles 
of certain conifers. But this was not the real reason why I did not 
like proper shelters any more, no. But when I was inside them I 
could think of nothing but my son’s raincoat, I literally saw it, I 
saw nothing else, it filled all space. It was in reality what our 
English friends call a trench-coat, and I could smell the rubber, 
though trench-coats are not rubberised as a rule. So I avoided as 
far as possible having recourse to proper shelters, made of boughs. 



preferring the shelter of my faithful umbrella, or of a tree, or of 
a hedge, or of a bush, or of a ruin. 

The thought of taking to the road, to try and get a lift, never 
crossed my mind. 

The thought of turning for help to the villages, to the peasants, 
would have displeased me, if it had occurred to me. 

I reached home with my fifteen shillings intact. No, I spent 
two. This is how. 

I had to suffer other molestations than this, other offences, but 
I shall not record them. Let us be content with paradigms. I may 
have to suffer others in the future. This is not certain. But they will 
never be known. This is certain. 

It was evening. I was waiting quietly, under my umbrella, for 
the weather to clear, when I was brutally accosted from behind. I 
had heard nothing. I had been in a place where I was all alone. A 
hand turned me about. It was a big ruddy farmer. He was wearing 
an oilskin, a bowler hat and wellingtons. His chubby cheeks were 
streaming, the water was dripping from his bushy moustache. But 
why describe him? We glared at each other with hatred. Perhaps 
he was the same who had so politely offered to drive us home in 
his car. I think not. And yet his face was familiar. Not only his 
face. He held a lantern in his hand. It was not lit. But he might 
light it at any moment. In the other he held a spade. To bury me 
with if necessary. He seized me by the jacket, by the lapel. He had 
not yet begun to shake me exactly, he would shake me in his own 
good time, not before. He merely cursed me. I wondered what I 
could have done, to put him in such a state. I must have raised my 
eyebrows. But I always raise my eyebrows, they are almost in my 
hair, my brow is nothing but wales and furrows. I understood 
finally that I did not own the land. It was his land. What was I 
doing on his land? If there is one question I dread, to which I have 
never been able to invent a satisfactory reply, it is the question what 
am I doing. And on someone clse’s land to make things worse! 
And at night! And in weather not fit for a dog! But I did not 
lose my presence of mind. It is a vow, I said. I have a fairly dis- 
tinguished voice, when I choose. It must have impressed him. He 
unhanded me. A pilgrimage, I said, following up my advantage. 



He asked me where to. He was lost. To the Turdy Madonna, I 
said. The Turdy Madonna? he said, as if he knew Turdy like the 
back of his hand and there were no Madonna in the length and 
breadth of it. But where is the place in which there is no Madonna? 
Herself, I s&id. The black one? he said, to try me. She is not black 
that I know of, I said. Another would have lost countenance. Not 
I. I knew my yokels and their weak points. You’ll never get there, 
he said. It’s thanks to her I lost my infant boy, I said, and kept 
his mamma. Such sentiments could not fail to please a cattle 
breeder. Had he but known ! I told him more fully what alas had 
never happened. Not that I miss Ninette. But she, at least, who 
knows, in any case, yes, a pity, no matter. She is the Madonna 
of pregnant women, I said, of pregnant married women, and I have 
vowed to drag myself miserably to her niche, and thank her. This 
incident gives but a’ feeble idea of my ability, even at this late 
period. But I had gone a little too far, for the vicious look came 
back into his eye. May I ask you a favour, I said, God will reward 
you. I added, God sent you to me, this evening. Humbly to ask a 
favour of people who are on the point of knocking your brains out 
sometimes produces good results. A little hot tea,' I implored, 
without sugar or milk, to revive me. To grant such a small favour 
to a pilgrim on the rocks was frankly a temptation difficult to 
resist. Oh all right, he said, come back to the house, you can dry 
yourself, before the fire. But I cannot, I cannot, I cried, I have 
sworn to make a bee-line to her ! And to efface the bad impression 
created by these words I took a florin from my pocket and gave it 
to him. For your poor-box, I said. And I added, because of the 
dark, A florin for your poor-box. It’s a long way, he said. God will 
go with you, I said. He thought it over. Well he might. Above all 
nothing to eat, I said, no really, I must not eat. Ah Moran, wily 
as a serpent, there was never the like of old Moran. Of course I 
would have preferred violence, but I dared not take the risk. 
Finally he took himself off telling me to stay where I was. 1 do not 
know what was in his mind. When I judged him at a safe remove 
I closed the umbrella and set off in the opposite direction, at right 
angles to the way I was going, in the driving rain. That was how 
I spent a florin. 



Now I may make an end. 

I skirted the graveyard. It was night. Midnight perhaps. The 
lane is steep, I laboured. A little wind was chasing the clouds over 
the faint sky. It is a great thing to own a plot in perpetuity, a very 
great thing indeed. If only that were the only perpetuity. I came 
to the wicket. It was locked. Very properly. But I could not open it. 
The key went into the hole, but would not turn. Long disuse? A 
new lock? I burst it open. I drew back to the other side of the lane 
and hurled myself at it. I had come home, as Youdi had com- 
manded me. In the end I got to my feet. What smelt so sweet? 
The lilacs? The primroses perhaps. I went towards my hives. They 
were there, as I feared. I lifted the top off one and laid it on the 
ground. It was a little roof, with a sharp ridge, and steep over- 
hanging slopes. I put my hand in the hive, moved it among the 
empty trays, felt along the bottom. It encouiTtercd, in a corner, a 
dry light ball. It crumbled under my fingers. They had clustered 
together for a little warmth, to try and sleep. I took out a handful. 
It was too dark to see, I put it in my pocket. It weighed nothing. 
They had been left out all winter, their honey taken away, without 
sugar. Yes, now I may make an end. I did not go to the hen-house. 
My hens were dead too, I knew they were dead. They had not 
been killed in the same way, except the grey one perhaps, that was 
the only difference. My bees, my hens, I had deserted them. I went 
towards the house. It was in darkness. The door was locked. I 
burst it open. Perhaps I could have opened it, with one of my keys. 
I turned the switch. No light. I went to the kitchen, to Martha’s 
room. No one. There is nothing more to tell. The house was empty. 
The company had cat off the light. They have offered to let me have 
it back. But I told them they could keep it. That is the kind of man 
I have become. I went back to the ghrden. The next day I looked 
at my handful of bees. A little dust of annulets and wings. I found 
some letters, at the foot of the stairs, in the box. A letter from 
Savory. My son was well. He would be. Let us hear no more about 
him. He has come back. He is sleeping. A letter from Youdi, in the 
third person, asking for a report. He will get his report. It is summer 
again. This time a year ago I was setting out. I am clearing out. 
One day I received a visit from Gaber. He wanted the report. 



That’s funny, I thought I was done with people and talk. Call 
back, I said. One day 1 received a visit from Father Ambrose. Is 
it possible! he said when he saw me. I think he really liked me, 
in his own way. I told him not to count on me any more. He began 
to talk, fifc was right. Who is not right? I left him. I am clearing 
out. Perhaps I shall meet Molloy. My knee is no better. It is no 
worse either. 1 have crutches now. I shall go faster, all will go 
faster. They will be happy days. I shall learn. All there was to sell 
I have sold. But I had heavy debts. I have been a man long enough, 
I shall not .put up with it any more, I shall not try any more. I shall 
never light this lamp again. I am going to blow it out and go into 
the garden. I think of the long May days, June days, when I lived 
in the garden. One day I talked to Hanna. She gave me news of 
Zulu, of the Eisner sisters. She knew who I was, she was not afraid 
of me. She never Went out, she disliked going out. She talked to 
me from her window. The news was bad, but might have been 
worse. There was a bright side. They were lovely days. The winter 
had been exceptionally rigorous, everybody said so. We had there- 
fore a right to this superb summer. I do not know if we had a right 
to it. My birds had not been killed. They were wild birds. And 
yet quite trusting. I recognised them and they seemed to recognise 
me. But one never knows. Some were missing and some were new. 
I tried to understand their language better. Without having recourse 
to mine. They were the longest, loveliest days of all the year. I lived 
in the garden. I have spoken of a voice telling me things. I was 
getting to know it better now, to understand what it wanted. It 
did not use the words that Moran had been taught when he was 
little and that he in his turn had taught to his little one. So that 
at first I did not know what it wanted. But in the end I understood 
this language. I understood it, I understand it, all wrong perhaps. 
That is not what matters. It told me to write the report. Does this 
mean I am freer now than I was? I do not know. I shall learn. 
Then I went back into the house and wrote. It is midnight. The 
rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not 




I shall soon be quite dead at last in spite of all. Perhaps 
next month. Then it will be the month of April or of May. For 
the year is still young, a thousand little signs tell me so. Perhaps 
I am wrong, perhaps I shall survive Saint John the Baptist’s Day 
and even the Fourteenth of July, festival of freedom. Indeed I 
would not put it past me to pant on to the Transfiguration, 
not to speak of the Assumption. But I do not think so, I 
do not think I am wrong in saying that these rejoicings will 
take place in my absence, this year. I have that feeling, I 
have had it now for some days, ami I credit it. But in what does 
it differ from those that have abused me ever since I was born? 
No, that is the kind of bait I do not rise to any more, my need 
for prettiness is gone. I could die to-day, if I wished, merely by 
making a little effort. But it is just as well to let myself die, quietly, 
without rushing things. Something must have changed. I will not 
weigh upon the balance any more, one way or the other. I shall be 
neutral and inert. No difficulty there. Throes are the only trouble. 



I must be on my guard against throes. But I am less given to 
them now, since coming here. Of course I still have my little fits 
of impatience, from time to time, I must be on my guard against 
them, for the next fortnight or three weeks. Without exaggeration 
to be sum, quietly crying and laughing, without working myself 
up into a state. Yes I shall be natural at last, I shall sufTer more, 
then less, without drawing any conclusions, I shall pay less heed 
to myself, I shall be neither hot nor cold any more, I shah be 
tepid, I shall die tepid, without enthusiasm. I shall not watch 
myself die, that would spoil everything. Have I watched myself 
live? Have I ever complained? Then why rejoice now? T am con- 
tent, necessarily, but not to the point of clapping my hands. L was 
always content, knowing I would be repaid. There he is now, my 
old debtor. Shall I then fali on his neck? I shall not answer any 
more questions. I shtdl even try not to ask myself any more. While 
waiting I shall tell myself stories, if I can. They will not be the 
same kind of stories as hitherto, that is all. They will be neither 
beautiful nor ugly, they will be calm, there will be no ugliness 
or beauty or fever in them any more, they will be almost lifeless, 
like the teller. What was that I said? It does not matter. I look 
forward to their giving me great satisfaction, some satisfaction. 
I am satisfied, there, I have enough, I am repaid, I need nothing 
more. Let me say before I go any further that I forgive nobody. 
I wish them all an atrocious life and then the fires and ice of 
hell and in the execrable generations to come an honoured name. 
Enough for this evening. 

This time I know where I am going, it is no longer the ancient 
night, the recent night. Now it is a game, I am going to play. T 
never knew how to play, till now. I longed to, but I knew it was 
impossible. And yet I often tried. I turned on all the lights, I took 
a good look all round, I began to play with what 1 saw. People 
and things ask nothing better than to play, certain animals too. 
All went well at first, they all came to me, pleased that someone 
should want to play with them. If I said. Now I need a hunch- 
back, immediately one came running, proud as punch of his fine 
hunch that was going to perform. It did not occur to him that I 
might have to ask him to undress. But it was not long before £ 



found myself alone, in the dark. That is why I gave up trying to 
play and took to myself for ever shapelessness and specchlessness, 
incurious wondering, darkness, long stumbling with outstretched 
arms, hiding. Such is the earnestness from which, for nearly a 
century now, I have never been able to depart. From *iow on it 
will be different. I shall never do anything any more from now 
on but play. No, I must not begin with an exaggeration. But I 
shall play a great part of the time, from now on, the greater part, 
if I can. But perhaps I shall not succeed any better than hitherto. 
Perhaps as hitherto I shall find myself abandoned, in the dark, 
without anything to play with. Then 1 shall play with myself. To 
have been able to conceive suchia plan is encouraging. 

I must have thought about my time-table during the night. 

I think I shall be able to tell myself four stories, each one on a 
different theme. One about a man, another about a woman, a 
third about a thing and finally one about an animal, a bird prob- 
ably. I think that is everything. Perhaps 1 shall put the man and ‘ 
the woman in the same story, there is so little difference between 
a man and a woman, between mine I mean. Perhaps I shall not 
have time to finish. On the other hand perhaps I shall finish too 
soon. There I am back at my old aporctics. Is that the word? I 
don’t know. It docs not matter if 1 do not finish. But if I finish 
too soon? That docs not matter either. For then I shall speak of 
the things that remain in my possession, that is a thing I have 
always wanted to do. It will be a kind of inventory. In any case 
that is a thing I must leave to the very last moment, so as to be 
sure of not having made a mistake. In any case that is a thing I 
shall certainly do, no matter what happens. It will not take me 
more than a quarter of an hour at the most. That is to say it 
could take me longer, if 1 wished. But should I be short of time, 
at the last moment, then a brief quarter of an hour would be all 
I shou 1 ^ need to draw up my inventory. My desire is henceforward 
to be clear, without bjeing finical. 1 have always wanted that too. 
It is obvious I may suddenly expire, at any moment. Would it not 
then be better for me to speak of my possessions without further 
delay? Would not that be wiser? And then if necessary at the last 
moment correct any inaccuracies. That is what reason counsels. 



But reason has not much hold on me, just now. All things run 
together to encourage me. But can I really resign myself to the 
possibility of my dying without leaving an inventory behind? 
There I am back at my old quibbles. Presumably 1 can, since I 
intend tc^ake the risk. All my life long I have put off this reckon- 
ing, saying. Too soon, too soon. Well it is still too soon. All my 
life long I have dreamt of the moment when, edified at last, in so 
far as one can be before all is lost, I might draw the line and make 
the tot. This moment seems now at hand. I shall not lose my head 
on that account. So first of all my stories and then, last of all, if 
all goes well, my inventory. And I shall begin, that they may 
plague me no more, with the man and woman. That will be the 
first story, there is not matter there for two. There will therefore 
be only three stories after all, that one, then the one about the 
animal, then the one about the thing, a stone probably. That is 
all very clear. Then I shall deal with my possessions. If after all 
that I am still alive I shall take the necessary steps to ensure my 
not having made a mistake. So much for that. 1 used not to know 
where I was going, but I knew I would arrive, 1 knew there would 
be an end to the long blind road. What half-truths, my God. No 
matter. It is playtime now. I find it hard to get used to that idea. 
The old fog calls. Now the case is reversed, the way well charted 
and little hope of coming to its end. But I have high hopes. What 
am I doing now, I wonder, losing time or gaining it? I have also 
decided to remind myself briefly of my present slate before em- 
barking on my stories. I think this is a mistake. It is a weakness. 
But I shall indulge in it. I shall play with all the more ardour 
afterwards. And it will be a pendant to the inventory. Aesthetics 
are therefore on my side, at least a certain kind of aesthetics. For 
I shall have to become earnest again to be able to speak of my 
possessions. There it is then divided into five, the time that 
remains. Into five what? I don’t know. Everything divides into 
itself, I suppose. If I start trying to think, again I shall make a 
mess of my decease. I must say there is something very attractive 
about such a prospect. But I am on my guard. For the past few 
days I have been finding something attractive about everything. 
To return to the five. Present state, three stories, inventory, there. 



An occasional interlude is to be feared. A full programme. I shall 
not deviate from it any further than I must. So much for that. I 
feel I am making a great mistake. No matter. 

Present state. This room seems to be mine. I can find no 
other explanation to my being left in it. All this time. Unless it 
be at the behest of one of the powers that be. That is hardly likely. 
Why should the powers have changed in their attitude towards 
me? It is better to adopt the simplest explanation, even if it is 
not simple, even if it does not explain very much. A bright light 
is not necessary, a taper is all one needs to live in strangeness, if 
it faithfully burns. Perhaps I came in for the room on ihe death 
of whoever was in it before me. I enquire no further in any case. 
It is not a room in a hospital, or in a madhouse, I can feel that. 
I have listened at different hours of the day and night and never 
heard anything suspicious or unusual, but always the peaceful 
sounds of men at large, getting up, lying down, preparing food, 
coming and going, weeping and laughing, or nothing at all, no 
sounds at all. And when I look out of the window it is clear to me 
from certain signs, that I am not in a house of rest in any sense 
of the word. No, this is just a plain private room apparently, in 
what appears to be a plain ordinary house. I do not remember 
how I got here. In an ambulance perhaps, a vehicle of some kind 
certainly. One day I found myself here, in the bed. Having prob- 
ably lost consciousness somewhere, I benefit by a hiatus in my 
recollections, not to be resumed until I recovered my senses, in this 
bed. As to the events that led up to my fainting and to which I 
can hardly have been oblivious, at the time, they have left no 
discernible trace, on my mind. But who has not experienced such 
lapses? They are common after drunkenness. I have often amused 
myself with trying to invent them, those same lost events. But 
without succeeding in amusing myself really. But what is the last 
thing I remember, I could start from there, before I came to my 
senses again here? That too is lost. I was walking certainly, all 
my life I have been walking, except the first few months and 
since I have been here. But at the end of the day I did not know 
where I had been or what my thoughts had been. What then 
could I be expected to remember, and with what? I remember a 



mood. My young days were more varied, such as they come back 
to me, in fits and starts. I did not know my way about so well 
then. I have lived in a kind of coma. The loss of consciousness 
for me was never any great loss. But perhaps I was stunned with 
a blow, on the head, in a forest perhaps, yes now that I speak of 
a forest I vaguely remember a forest. All that belongs to the past. 
Now it is the present I must establish, before I am avenged. It is 
an ordinary room. I have little experience of rooms, but this one 
seems quite ordinary to me. The truth is, if I did not feel myself 
dying, L could well believe myself dead, expiating my sins, or in 
one of heaven’s mansions. But I feel at last that the sands are 
running out, which would not be the case if I were in heaven, or 
in hell. Beyond the grave, the sensation of being beyond the grave 
was stronger with me six months ago. Had it been foretold to me 
that one day I should feel myself living as I do to-day, I should 
have smiled. It would not have been noticed, but I would have 
known I was smiling. I remember them well, these last few days, 
they have left me more memories than the thirty thousand odd 
that went before. The reverse would have been less surprising. 
When I have completed my inventory, if my death is not ready for 
me then, I shall write my memoirs. That’s funny, I have made a 
joke. No matter. There is a cupboard I have never looked into. 
My possessions are in a corner, in a little heap. With my long 
stick I can rummage in them, draw them to me, send them back. 
My bed is by the window. I lie turned towards it most of the 
time. I see roofs and sky, a glimpse of street too, if I crane. I do 
not see any fields or hills. And yet they are near. But are they 
near? I don’t know. I do not see the sea either, but I hear it when 
it is high. I can see into a room of the house across the way. 
Queer things go on there sometimes, people are queer. Perhaps 
these are abnormal. They must see me too, my big shaggy head 
up against the window-pane. I never had so much hair as now, 
nor so long, I say it without fear of contradiction. But at night 
they do not see me, for I never have a light. I have studied the 
stars a little here. But I cannot find my way about among them. 
Gazing at them one night I suddenly saw myself in London. Is it 
possible I got as far as London? And what have stars to do with 



that city? The moon on the other hand has grown familiar, I am 
well familiar now with her changes of aspect and orbit, I know 
more or less the hours of the night when I may look for her in the 
sky and the nights when she will not come. What else? The clouds. 
They are varied, very varied. And all sorts of birds. They come 
and perch on the window-sill, asking for food! It is touching. 
They rap on the window-pane, with their beaks. I never give them 
anything. But they still come. What are they waiting for? They 
are not vultures. Not only am I left here, but I am looked after! 
This is how it is done now. The door half opens, a hand puts a 
dish on the little table left there for that purpose, takes away the 
dish of the previous day, and the door closes again. This is done 
for me every day, at the same time probably. When I want to eat 
I hook the table with my stick and draw it to me. It is on castors, 
it comes squeaking and lurching towards mt* When I need it no 
longer I send it back to its place by the door. It is soup. They 
must know I am toothless. I eat it one time out of two, out of 
three, on an average. When my chamber-pot is full I put it on the 
table beside the dish. Then I go twenty-four hours without a pot. 
No, I have two pots. They have thought of everything. I am 
naked in the bed, in the blankets, whose number I increase and 
diminish as the seasons come and go. I am never hot, never cold. 
I don’t wash, but I don’t get dirty. If I get dirty somewhere I rub 
the part with my finger wet with spittle. What matters is to eat 
and excrete. Dish and pot, dish and pot, these arc the poles. In 
the beginning it was different. The woman came right into the 
room, bustled about, enquired about my needs, my wants. I 
succeeded in the end in getting them into her head, my needs and 
my wants. It was not easy. She did not understand. Until the day 
I found the terms, the accents, that fitted her. All that must be 
half imagination. It was she who got me this long stick. It has a 
hook ? : one end. Thanks to it I can control the furthest recesses 
of my abode. How gjeat is my debt to sticks! So great that I 
almost forget the blows they have transferred to me. She is an 
old woman. I don’t know why she is good to me. Yes, let us call it 
goodness, without quibbling. For her it is certainly goodness. I 
believe her to be even older than I. But rather less well preserved, 



in spite of her mobility. Perhaps she goes with the room, in a 
manner of speaking. In that case she does not call for separate 
study. But it is conceivable that she does what she does out of 
sheer charity, or moved with regard to me by a less general feel- 
ing of compassion or affection. Nothing is impossible, I cannot 
keep on denying it much longer. But it is more convenient to 
suppose that when I came in for the room I came in for her too. 
All I see of her now is the gaunt hand and part of the sleeve. 
Not even that, not even that. Perhaps she is dead, having pre- 
deceased- me, perhaps now it is another’s hand that lays and clears 
my little table. I don’t know how long I have been here, I must 
have said so. All I know is that I was very old already before I 
found myself here. I call myself an octogenarian, but I cannot 
prove it. Perhaps I am only a quinquagenarian, or a quadragen- 
arian. It is ages since I counted them, my years I mean. I know 
the year of my birth, I have not forgotten that, but I do not know 
what year I have got to now. But I think I have been here for 
some very considerable time. For there is nothing the various 
seasons can do to me, within the shelter of these walls, that I do 
not know. That is not to be learnt in one year or two. In a flicker 
of my lids whole days have flown. Does anything remain to be 
said? A few words about myself perhaps. My body is what is 
called, unadvisedly perhaps, impotent. There is virtually nothing 
it can do. Sometimes I miss not being able to crawl around any 
more. But I am not much given to nostalgia. My arms, once they 
are in position, can exert a certain force. But I find it hard to 
guide them. Perhaps the red nucleus has faded. I tremble a little, 
but only a little. The groaning of the bedstead is part of my life, 
I would not like it to cease, I mean I would not like it to decrease. 
It is on my back, that is to say prostrate, no, supine, that I feel best, 
bony. I lie on my back, but my cheek is on the pillow. I have only 
to open my eyes to have them begin again, the sky and smoke of 
mankind. My sight and hearing are very bad, on the vast main no 
light but reflected gleams. All my senses are trained full on me, 
me. Dark and silent and stale, I am no prey for them. I am far 
from the sounds of blood and breath, immured. I shall not speak 
of my sufferings. Cowering deep down among them I feel nothing. 



It is there I die, unbeknown to my stupid flesh. That which is 
seen, that which cries and writhes, my witless remains. Some- 
where in this turmoil thought struggles on, it too wide of the 
mark. It too seeks me, as it always has, where I am not to be 
found. It too cannot be quiet. On others let it wreak Tits dying 
rage, and leave me in peace. Such would seem to be my present state. 

The man’s name is Saposcat. Like his father’s. Christian 
name? I don’t know. He will not need one. His friends call him 
Sapo. What friends? I don’t know. A few words about the boy. 
This cannot be avoided. 

He was a precocious boy. He was not good at his lessons, 
neither could he see the use of them. He attended his classes with 
his mind elsewhere, or blank. 

He attended his classes with his mind elsewhere. He liked 
sums, but not the way they were taught. What he liked was the 
manipulation of concrete numbers. All calculation seemed to him 
idle in which the nature of the unit was not specified. He made a 
practice, alone and in company, of mental arithmetic. And the 
figures than marshalling in his mind thronged it with colours and 
with forms. 

What tedium. 

He was the eldest child of poor and sickly parents. He often 
heard them talk of what they ought to do in order to have better 
health and more money. He was struck each time by the vagueness 
of these palavers and not surprised that they never led to anything. 
His father was a salesman, in a shop. He used to say to his wife, 
I really must find work for the evenings and the Saturday after- 
noon. He added, faintly, And the Sunday. His wife would answer. 
But if you do any more work you’ll fall ill. And Mr. Saposcat 
had to allow that he would indeed be ill-advised to forego his 
Sunday rest. These people at least arc grown up. But his health 
was not so poor that he could not work in the evenings of the 
week and on the Saturday afternoon. At what, said his wife, work 
at what? Perhaps secretarial work of some kind, he said. Apd who 
will look after the garden? said his wife. The life of the Saposcats 
was full of axioms, of which one at least established the criminal 
absurdity of a garden without roses and with its paths and lawns 



uncared for. I might perhaps grow vegetables, he said. They cost 
less to buy, said his wife. Sapo marvelled at these conversations. 
Think of the price of manure, said his mother. And in the silence 
which followed Mr. Saposcat applied his mind, with the earnest- 
ness he brought to everything he did, to the high price of manure 
which prevented him from supporting his family in greater com- 
fort, while his wife made ready to accuse herself, in her turn, of 
not doing all she might. But she was easily persuaded that she 
could not do more without exposing herself to the risk of dying 
before iier time. Think of the doctor’s fees we save, said Mr. 
Saposcat. And the chemist’s bills, said his wife. Nothing remained 
but to envisage a smaller house. But we are cramped as it is, said 
Mrs. Saposcat. And it was an understood thing that they would 
be more and more so with every passing year until the day came 
when, the departure of the first-born compensating the arrival of the 
new-born, a kind of equilibrium would be attained. Then little by 
little the house would empty. And at last they would be all alone, 
with their memories. It would be time enough then to move. He 
would be pensioned off, she at her last gasp. They woald take a 
cottage in the country where, having no further need of manure, 
they could afford to buy it in cartloads. And their children, 
grateful for the sacrifices made on their behalf, would come to 
their assistance. It was in this atmosphere of unbridled dream that 
these conferences usually ended. It was as though the Saposcats 
drew the strength to live from the prospect of their impotence. 
But sometimes, before reaching that stage, they paused to consider 
the case of their first-born. What age is he now? asked Mr. 
Saposcat. His wife provided the information, it being understood 
that this was of her province. She was always wrong. Mr. Saposcat 
took over the erroneous figure, murmuring it over and over to 
himself as though it were a question of the rise in price of some 
indispensable commodity, such as butcher’s meat. And at the same 
time he sought in the appearance of his ^on some alleviation of 
what he had just heard. Was it at least a nice sirloin? Sapo looked 
at his father’s face, sad, astonished, loving, disappointed, con- 
fident in spite of all. Was it on the cruel flight of the years he 
brooded, or on the time it was taking his son to command a 



salary? Sometimes he stated wearily his regret that his son should 
not be more eager to make himself useful about the place. It is 
better for him to prepare his examinations, said his wife. Starting 
from a given theme their minds laboured in unison. They had no 
conversation properly speaking. They made use of tlie spoken 
word in much the same way as the guard of a train makes use of 
his flags, or of his lantern. Or else they said. This is where we get 
down. And their son once signalled, they wondered sadly if it was 
not the mark of superior minds to fail miserably at the written 
paper and cover themselves with ridicule at the viva voce. They 
were not always content to gape in silence at the same landscape. 
At least his health is good, said Mr. Saposcat. Not all that, said 
his wife. But no definite disease, said Mr. Saposcat. A nice thing 
that would be, at his age, said his wife. They did not know why 
he was committed to a liberal profession. That was yet another thing 
that went without saying. It was therefore impossible he should be 
unfitted for it. They thought of him as a doctor for preference. 
He will look after us when we are old, said Mrs. Saposcat. And 
her husband replied, I see him rather as a surgeon, as though 
after a certain age people were inoperable. 

What tedium. And I call that playing. 1 wonder if [ am not 
talking yet again about myself. Shall I be incapable, to the end, 
of lying on any other subject? I feel the old dark gathering, the 
solitude preparing, by which 1 know myself, and the call of that 
ignorance which might be noble and is mere poltroonery. Already 
I forget what I have said. That is not how to play. Soon I shall 
not know where Sapo comes from, nor what he hopes. Perhaps I 
had better abandon this story and go on to the second, or even 
the third, the one about the stone. No, it would be the same thing. I 
must simply be on my guard, reflecting on what I have said before 
I go on and stopping, each time disaster threatens, to look at my- 
self as I am. That is just what I wanted to avoid. But there 
seems to be no other* solution. After that mud-bath I shall be 
better able to endure a world unsullied by my presence. What a 
way to reason. My eyes, I shall open my eyes, look at the little 
heap of my possessions, give my body the old orders I know it 
cannot obey, turn to my spirit gone to rack and ruin, spoil my 



agony the better to live it out, far already from the world that 
parts at last its labia and lets me go. 

I have tried to reflect on the beginning of my story. There 
are things I do not understand. But nothing to signify. I can go on. 

Sapo’ had no friends— no, that won’t do. 

Sapo was on good terms with his little friends, though they 
did not exactly love him. The dolt is seldom solitary. He boxed 
and wrestled well, was fleet of foot, sneered at his teachers and 
sometimes even gave them impertinent answers. Fleet of foot? Well 
well. Pestered with questions one day he cried. Haven’t I told you 
I don’t know! Much of his free time he spent confined in school 
doing impositions and often he did not get home before eight 
o’clock at night. He submitted with philosophy to these vexations. 
But he would not let himself be struck. The first time an 
exasperated master threatened him with a cane, Sapo snatched it 
from his hand and threw it out of the window, which was closed, 
for it was winter. This was enough to justify his expulsion. But 
Sapo was not expelled, either then or later. I must try and discover, 
when I have time to think about it quietly, why Sapo was not 
expelled when he so richly deserved to be. For I want as little as 
possible of darkness in his story. A little darkness, in itself, at the 
time is nothing. You think no more about it and you go on. But I 
know what darkness is, it accumulates, thickens, then suddenly 
bursts and drowns everything. 

I have not been able to find out why Sapo was not expelled. 
I shall have to leave this question open. 1 try not to be glad. I 
shall make haste to put a safe remove between him and this 
incomprehensible indulgence, I shall make him live as though he 
had been punished according to his deserts. We shall turn our backs 
on this little cloud, but we shall not let it out of our sight. It will 
not cover the sky without our knowing, we shall not suddenly 
raise our eyes, far from help, far from shelter, to a sky as black 
as ink. That is what I have decided. 1 sec no other solution. It is 
the best I can do. 

At the age of fourteen he was a plump rosy boy. His wrists 
and ankles were thick, which made his mother say that one day 
he would be even bigger than his father. Curious deduction. But 



the most striking thing about him was his big round head horrid 
with flaxen hair as stiff and straight as the bristles of a brush. 
Even his teachers could not help thinking he had a remarkable 
head and they were all the more irked by their failure to get 
anything into it. His father would say, when in good humour, One 
of these days he will astonish us all. It was thanks to Sapo’s skull 
that he was enabled to hazard this opinion and, in deflance of the 
facts and against his better judgment, to revert to it from time to 
time. But he could not endure the look in Sapo’s eyes and went 
out of his way not to meet it. He has your eyes, his wife would 
say. Then Mr. Saposcat chafed to be alone, in order to inspect his 
eyes in the mirror. They were palest blue. Just a shade lighter, 
said Mrs. Saposcat. 

Sapo loved nature, took an interest. 

This is awful. 

Sapo loved nature, took an interest in animals and plants 
and willingly raised his eyes to the sky, day and night. But he 
did not know how to look at all these things, the looks he rained 
upon them taught him nothing about them. He confused the birds 
with one another, and the trees, and could not tell one crop from 
another crop. He did not associate the crocus with the spring nor 
the chrysanthemum with Michaelmas. The sun, the moon, the 
planets and the stars did not fill him with wonder. He was some- 
times tempted by the knowledge of these strange things, some- 
times beautiful, that he would have about him all his life. But 
from his ignorance of them he drew a kind of joy, as from all that 
went to swell the murmur. You are a simpleton. But he loved the 
flight of the hawk and could distinguish it from all others. He 
would stand rapt, gazing at the long pernings, the quivering poise, 
the wings lifted for the plummet drdp, the wild reascent, fascin- 
ated by such extremes of need, of pride, of patience and solitude. 

I si all not give up yet. I have finished my soup and sent back 
the little table to its plape by the door. A light has just gone on in 
one of the two windows of the house across the way. By the two 
windows I mean those I can see always, without raising my head 
from the pillow. By this I do not mean the two windows in their 
entirety, but one in its entirety and part of the other. It is in this 



latter that the light has just gone on. For an instant I could see 
the woman coming and going. Then she drew the curtain. Until 
tomorrow I shall not see her again, her shadow perhaps from 
time to time. She does not always draw the curtain. The man has 
not yet ^ome home. Home. I have demanded certain movements 
of my legs and even feet. I know them well and could feel the 
effort they made to obey. I have lived with them that little space 
of time, filled with drama, between the message received and the 
piteous response. To old dogs the hour comes when, whistled by 
their master setting forth with his stick at dawn, they cannot 
spring 'after him. Then they stay in their kennel, or in their 
basket, though they are not chained, and listen to the steps 
dying away. The man too is sad. But soon the pure air 
and the sun console him, he thinks no more about his old 
companion, until evening. The lights in his house bid him welcome 
home and a feeble barking makes him say. It is time I had him 
destroyed. There’s a nice passage. Soon it will be even better, soon 
things will be better. 1 am going to rummage a little in my 
possessions. Then I shall put my head under the blankets. Then 
things will be better, for Sapo and for him who follows him, who 
asks nothing but to follow in his footsteps, by clear and endurable 

Sapo’s phlegm, his silent ways, were not of a nature to please. 
In the midst of tumult, at school and at home, he remained 
motionless in his place, often standing, and gazed straight before 
him with eyes as pale and unwavering as a gull’s. People wondered 
what he could brood on thus, hour after hour. His father supposed 
him a prey to the first flutterings of sex. At sixteen I was the 
same, he would say. At sixteen you were earning your living, said 
his wife. So I was, said Mr. Saposcat. But in the view of his 
teachers the signs were rather those of besottedness pure and 
simple. Sapo dropped his jaw and breathed through his mouth. It 
is not easy to see in virtue of what this expression is incompatible 
with erotic thoughts. But indeed his dream was less of girls than 
of himself, his own life, his life to be. That is more than enough 
to stop up the nose of a lucid and sensitive boy, and cause his jaw 
temporarily to sag. But it is time I took a little rest, for safety's sake. 



I don’t like those gull’s eyes. They remind me of an old ship- 
wreck, I forget which. I know it is a small thing. But I am easily 
frightened now. I know those little phrases that seem so innocuous 
and, once you let them in, pollute the whole of speech. Nothing is 
more real than nothing . They rise up out of the pit and laiow no 
rest until they drag you down into its dark. But I am on my guard 

Then he was sorry he had not learnt the art of thinking, 
beginning by folding back the second and third fingers the better 
to put the index on the subject and the little finger on the verb, in 
the way his teacher had shown him, and sorry he could make no 
meaning of the babel raging in his head, the doubts, desires, 
imaginings and dreads. And a little less well endowed with strength 
and courage he too would have abandoned and despaired of ever 
knowing what manner of being he was, and hcAv he was going to 
live, and lived vanquished, blindly, in a mad world, in the midst 
of strangers. 

From these reveries he emerged tired and pale, which con- 
firmed his father’s impression that he was the victim of lascivious 
speculations. He ought to play more games, he would say. We arc 
getting on, getting on. They told me he would be a good athlete, 
said Mr. Saposcat, and now he is not on any team. His studies take 
up all his time, said Mrs. Saposcat. And he is always last, said 
Mr. Saposcat. He is fond of walking, said Mrs. Saposcat, the long 
walks in the country do him good. Then Mr. Saposcat wried his 
face, at the thought of his son’s long solitary walks and the good 
they did him. And sometimes he was carried away to the point 
of saying, it might have been better to have put him to a trade. 
Whereupon it was usual, though not compulsory, for Sapo to go 
away, while his mother exclaimed. Oh Adrian, you have hurt his 

We are getting on. Nothing is less like me than this patient, 
reasonable child, struggl^ig all alone for years to shed a little light 
upon himself, avid of the least gleam, a stranger to the joys of 
darkness. Here truly is the air I needed, a lively tenuous air, far 
from the nourishing murk that is killing me. I shall never go back 
into this carcass except to find out its time. I want to be there a 



little before the plunge, close for the last time the old hatch on 
top of me, say goodbye to the holds where I have lived, go down 
with my refuge. I was always sentimental. But between now and 
then I have time to frolic, ashore, in the brave company I 
have afways longed for, always searched for, and which would 
never have me. Yes, now my mind is easy, I know the game 
is won, I lost them all till now, but it’s the last that counts. 
A very fine achievement I must say, or rather would, if I did not 
fear to contradict myself. Fear to contradict myself! If this con- 
tinues it is myself I shall lose and the thousand ways that lead 
there. And I shall resemble the wretches famed in fable, crushed 
beneath the weight of their wish come true. And I even feel a 
strange desire come over me, the desire to know what I am doing, 
and why. So I near the goal I set myself in my young days and 
which prevented fr le from living. And on the threshold of being 
no more I succeed in being another. Very pretty. 

The summer holidays. In the morning he took private lessons. 
You’ll have us in the poorhousc, said Mrs. Saposcat. It’s a good 
investment, said Mr. Saposcat. In the afternoon he left the house, 
with his books under his arm, on the pretext that he worked better 
in the open air, no, without a word. Once clear of the town he hid 
his books under a stone and ranged the countryside. It was the 
season when the labours of the peasants reach their paroxysm and 
the long bright days are too short for all there is to do. And often 
they took advantage of the moon to make a last journey between 
the fields, perhaps far away, and the bam or threshing floor, or to 
overhaul the machines and get them ready for the impending 
dawn. The impending dawn. 

I fell asleep. But I do not want to sleep. There is no time for 
sleep in my time-table. I do not want — no, I have no explanations 
to give. Coma is for the living. The living. They were always more 
than I could bear, all, no, I don’t mean that, but groaning with 
tedium I watched them come and go, th^n I killed them, or took 
their place, or fled. I feel within me the glow of that old frenzy, 
but I know it will set me on fire no more. I stop everything and 
wait. Sapo stands on one leg, motionless, his strange eyes closed. 
The turmoil of the day freezes in a thousand absurd postures. 


The little cloud drifting before their glorious sun will darken the 
earth as long as I please. 

Live and invent. I have tried. I must have tried. Invent. It 
is not the word. Neither is live. No matter. I have tried. While 
within me the wild beast of earnestness padded up aqd down, 
roaring, ravening, rending. I have done that. And all alone, well 
hidden, played the clown, all alone, hour after hour, motionless, 
often standing, spellbound, groaning. That’s right, groan. I couldn’t 
play. I turned till I was dizzy, clapped my hands, ran, shouted, 
saw myself winning, saw myself losing, rejoicing, lamenting. Then 
suddenly I threw myself on the playthings, if there were any, or 
on a child, to change his joy to howling, or I fled, to hiding. The 
grown-ups pursued me, the just, caught me, beat me, hounded 
me back into the round, the game, the jollity. For I was already in 
the toils of earnestness. That has been my disease. I was born 
grave as others syphilitic. And gravely I struggled to be grave no 
more, to live, to invent, I know what I mean. But at each fresh 
attempt I lost my head, fled to my shadows as to sanctuary, to his 
lap who can neither live nor suffer the sight of others living. I 
say living without knowing what it is. I tried to live without 
knowing what I was trying. Perhaps I have lived after all, without 
knowing. I wonder why I speak of all this. Ah yes, to relieve the 
tedium. Live and cause to live. There is no use idicting words, 
they are no shoddier than what they peddle. After the fiasco, the 
solace, the repose, I began again, to try and live, cause to live, 
be another, in myself, in another. How false all this is. No time 
now to explain. I began again. But little by little with a different 
aim, no longer in order to succeed, but in order to fail. Nuance. 
What I sought, when I struggled out of my hole, then aloft 
through the stinging air towards an, inaccessible boon, was the 
rapture of vertigo, the letting go, the fall, the gulf, the relapse to 
darkness . to nothingness, to earnestness, to home, to him waiting 
for me always, who needed me and whom I needed, who took me 
in his arms and told me to stay with him always, who gave me his 
place and watched over me, who suffered every time I left him, 
whom I have often made suffer and seldom contented, whom 
I have never seen. There I am forgetting myself again. My con- 



cern is not with me, but with another, far beneath me and whom 
I try to envy, of whose crass adventures I can now tell at last, I 
don’t know how. Of myself I could never tell, any more than live 
or tell of others. How could I have, who never tried? To show 
myself rjow, on the point of vanishing, at the same time as the 
stranger, and by the same grace, that would be no ordinary last 
straw. Then live, long enough to feel, behind my closed eyes, other 
eyes close. What an end. 

The market. The inadequacy of the exchanges between rural 
and urban areas had not escaped the excellent youth. He had 
mustered, on this subject, the following considerations, some per- 
haps close to, others no doubt far from, the truth. 

In his country the problem — no, I can’t do it. 

The peasants. His visits to. I can’t. Assembled in the farm- 
yard they watched him depart, on stumbling, wavering feet, as 
though they scarcely felt the ground. Often he stopped, stood 
tottering a moment, then suddenly was off again, in a new direc- 
tion. So he went, limp, drifting, as though tossed by the earth. And 
when, after a halt, he started off again, it was like a big thistle- 
down plucked by the wind from the place where it had settled. 
There is a choice of images. 

I have rummaged a little in my things, sorting them out and 
drawing them over to me, to look at them. I was not far wrong in 
thinking that I knew them off, by heart, and could speak of them 
at any moment, without looking at them. But I wanted to make 
sure. It was well I did. For now I know that the image of these 
objects, with which I have lulled myself till now, though accurate 
in the main, was not completely so. And I should be sorry to let 
slip this unique occasion which seems to offer me the possibility 
of something suspiciously like a true statement at last. I might feel 
I had failed in my duty! 1 want this matter to be free from all 
trace of approximativeness. I want, when the great day comes, to 
be in a position to enounce clearly, without addition or omission, 
all that its interminable prelude had brought me and left me in the 
way of chattels personal. I presume it is an obsession. 

I see then I had attributed to myself certain objects no longer 
in my possession, as far as I can see. But might they not have 



rolled behind a piece of furniture? That would surprise me. A 
boot, for example, can a boot roll behind a piece of furniture? 
And yet I see only one boot. And behind what piece of furniture? 
In this room, to the best of my knowledge, there is only one piece 
of furniture capable of intervening between me and njy posses- 
sions, I refer to the cupboard. But it so cleaves to the wall, to the 
two walls, for it stands in the comer, that it seems part of them. 
It may be objected that my button-boot, for it was a kind of 
button-boot, is in the cupboard. I thought of that. But I have 
gone through it, my stick has gone through the cupboard, opening 
the doors, the drawers, for the first time perhaps, and rooting 
everywhere. And the cupboard, far from containing my boot, is 
empty. No, I am now without this boot, just as I am now without 
certain other objects of less value, which I thought I had 
preserved, among them a zinc ring that sho’je like silver. I note 
on the other hand, in the heap, the presence of two or three 
objects I had quite forgotten and one of which at least, the bowl 
of a pipe, strikes no chord in my memory. I do not remember ever 
having smoked a tobacco-pipc. I remember the soap-pipe with 
which, as a child, I used to blow bubbles, an odd bubble. Never 
mind, this bowl is now mine, wherever it comes from. A number 
of my treasures are derived from the same source. I also dis- 
covered a little packet tied up in age-yellowed newspaper. It 
reminds me of something, but of what? I drew it over beside the 
bed and felt it with the knob of my stick. And my hand under- 
stood softness and lightness, better I think than if it had touched 
the thing directly, fingering it and weighing it in its palm. I 
resolved, I don’t know why, not to undo it. I sent it back into the 
corner, with the rest. I shall speak of it again perhaps, when the 
time comes. I shall say, I can hear, myself already. Item, a little 
packet, soft, and light as a feather, tied up in newspaper. It will be 
my little mystery, all my own. Perhaps it is a lack of rupees. Or 
a lock of hair. 

I told myself too that I must make better speed. True lives do 
not tolerate this excess of circumstance. It is there the demon 
lurks, like the gonococcus in the folds of the prostate. My time is 
limited. It is thence that one fine day, when all nature smiles and 



shines, the rack lets loose its black unforgettable cohorts and 
sweeps away the blue for ever. My situation is truly delicate. 
What fine things, what momentous things, I am going to miss 
through fear, fear of falling back into the old error, fear of not 
finishing /n time, fear of revelling, for the last time, in a last out- 
pouring of misery, impotence and hate. The forms are many in 
which the unchanging seeks relief from its formlessness. Ah yes, I 
was always subject to the deep thought, especially in the spring 
of the year. That one had been nagging at me for the past five 
minutes. I venture to hope there will be no more, of that depth. 
After all it is not important not to finish, there are worse things 
that velleities. But is that the point? Quite likely. All I ask is that 
the last of mine, as long as it lasts, should have living for its 
theme, that is all, I know what I mean. If it begins to run short 
of life I shall feel it All I ask is to know, before I abandon him 
whose life has so well begun, that my death and mine alone 
prevents him from living on, from winning, losing, joying, suffer- 
ing, rotting and dying, and that even had I lived he would have 
waited, before he died, for his body to be dead. That is what you 
might call taking a reef in your sails. 

My body does not yet make up its mind. But I fancy it 
weighs heavier on the bed, flattens and spreads. My breath, when 
it comes back, fills the room with its din, though my chest moves 
no more than a sleeping child’s. I open my eyes and gaze un- 
blinkingly and long at the night sky. So a tiny tot I gaped, first at 
the novelties, then at the antiquities. Between it and me the pane, 
misted and smeared with the filth of years. I should like to 
breathe on it, but it is too far away. It is such a night as Kaspar 
David Friedrich loved, tempestuous and bright. That name that 
comes back to me, those names. The clouds scud, tattered by the 
wind, across a limpid ground. If I had the patience to wait I 
would see the moon. But I have not. Now that I have looked 
I hear the wind. I close my eyes and it mingles with mv breath. 
Words and images run riot in my head, pursuing, flying, clashing, 
merging, endlessly. But beyond this tumult there is a great calm, 
and a great indifference, never really to be troubled by anything 
again. I turn a little on my side, press my mouth against the 



pillow, and my nose, crush against the pillow my old hairs now 
no doubt as white as snow, pull the blanket over my head. I feel, 
deep down in my trunk, I cannot be more explicit, pains that 
seem new to me. I think they are chiefly in my back. They have 
a kind of rhythm, they even have a kind of little tune. They are 
bluish. How bearable all that is, my God. My head is almost 
facing the wrong way, like a bird’s. I part my lips, now I have the 
pillow in my mouth. I have, I have. I suck. The search for myself 
is ended! I am buried in the world, I knew I would find my place 
there one day, the old world cloisters me, victorious. I am happy, 
I knew I would be happy one day. But I am not wise. For the 
wise thing now would be to let go, at this instant of happiness. 
And what do I do? I go back again to the light, to the fields I so 
longed to love, to the sky all astir with little white clouds as 
white and light as snowflakes, to the life I cftuld never manage, 
through my own fault perhaps, through pride, or pettiness, but 
I don’t think so. The beasts are at pasture, the sun warms the 
rocks and makes them glitter. Yes, I leave my happiness and go 
back to the race of men too, they come and go, often with 
burdens. Perhaps I have judged them ill, but I don’t think so, I 
have not judged them at all. All I want now is to make a last 
effort to understand, to begin to understand, how such creatures 
are possible. No, it is not a question of understanding. Of what 
then? I don’t know. Here I go none the less, mistakenly. Night, 
storm and sorrow, and the catalepsies of the soul, this time I shall 
see that they are good. The last word is not yet said between me 
and — yes, the last word is said. Perhaps I simply want to hear it 
said again. Just once again. No, I want nothing. 

The Lamberts. The Lamberts found it difficult to live, I mean 
to make ends meet. There was the man, the woman and two 
children, a boy and a girl. There at least is something that admits 
of no • ontroversy. The father was known as Big Lambert, and big 
he was indeed. He had parried his young cousin and was still with 
her. This was his third or fourth marriage. He had other children 
here and there, grown men and women imbedded deep in life, 
hoping for nothing more, from themselves or from others. They 
helped him, each one according to his means, or the humour of 



the moment, out of gratitude towards him but for whom they had 
never seen the light of day, or saying, with indulgence. If it had 
not been he it would have been someone else. Big Lambert had 
not a tooth in his head and smoked his cigarettes in a cigarette- 
holder, wftiile regretting his pipe. He was highly thought of as a 
bleeder and disjointer of pigs and greatly sought after, I exagger- 
ate, in that capacity. For his fee was lower than the butcher’s, and 
he had even been known to demand no more, in return for his 
services, than a lump of gammon or a pig’s cheek. How plausible 
all that is* He often spoke of his father with respect and tender- 
ness. His like will not be seen again, he used to say, once I am 
gone. He must have said this in other words. His great days then 
fell in December and January, and from February onwards he 
waited impatiently for the return of that season, the principal 
event of which is unquestionably the Saviour’s birth, in a stable, 
while wondering if he would be spared till then. Then he would 
set forth, hugging under his arm, in their case, the great knives so 
lovingly whetted before the fire the night before, and in his pocket, 
wrapped in paper, the apron destined to protect his Sunday suit 
while he worked. And at the thought that he, Big Lambert, was 
on his way towards that distant homestead where all was in readi- 
ness for his coming, and that in spite of his great age he was still 
needed, and his methods preferred to those of younger men, then 
his old heart exulted. From these expeditions he reached home 
late in the night, drunk and exhausted by the long road and the 
emotions of the day. And for days afterwards he could speak of 
nothing but the pig he had just dispatched, 1 would say into the 
other world if I was not aware that pigs have none but this, to 
the great affliction of his family. But they did not dare protest, for 
they feared him. Yes, at art' age when most people cringe and 
cower, as if to apologize for still being present, Lambert was 
feared and in a position to do as he pleased. And even his young 
wife had abandoned all hope of bringing him to heel, by means of 
her cunt, that trump card of young wives. For she knew what he 
would do to her if she did not open it to him. And he even 
insisted on her making things easy for him, in ways that often 
appeared to her exorbitant. And at the least show of rebellion 



on her part he would run to the wash-house and come back with 
the battle and beat her until she came round to a better way of 
thinking. All this by the way. And to return to our pigs, Lambert 
continued to expatiate, to his near and dear ones, of an evening, 
while the lamp burned low, on the specimen he had jus» slaugh- 
tered, until the day he was summoned to slaughter another. Then 
all his conversation was of this new pig, so unlike the other in 
every respect, so quite unlike, and yet at bottom the same. For 
all pigs are alike, when you get to know their little ways, struggle, 
squeal, bleed, squeal, struggle, bleed, squeal and faint away, in 
more or less the same way exactly, a way that is all their own 
and could never be imitated by a lamb, for example, or a kid. 
But once March was out Big Lambert recovered his calm and 
became his silent self again. 

The son, or heir, was a great strapping lad»with terrible teeth. 

The farm. The farm was in a hollow, flooded in winter and in 
summer burnt to a cinder. The way to it lay through a fine 
meadow. But this fine meadow did not belong to the Lamberts, 
but to other peasants living at a distance. There jonquils and 
narcissi bloomed in extraordinary profusion, at the appropriate 
season. And there at nightfall, stealthily. Big Lambert turned 
loose his goats. 

Strange to say this gift that Lambert possessed when it came 
to sticking pigs seemed of no help to him when it came to rearing 
them, and it was seldom his own exceeded nine stone. Clapped 
into a tiny sty on the day of its arrival, in the month of April, it 
remained there until the day of its death, on Christmas Eve. For 
Lambert persisted in dreading for his pigs, though every passing 
year proved him wrong, the thinning effects of exercise. Daylight 
and fresh air he dreaded for them too. And it was finally a weak 
pig, blind and lean, that he lay on its back in the box, having tied 
its legs ‘and killed, indignantly but without haste, upbraiding it the 
while for its ingratitude ( at the top of his voice. For he could not 
or would not understand that the pig was not to blame, but he 
himself, who had coddled it unduly. And he persisted in his error. 

Dead world, airless, waterless. That’s it, reminisce. Here and 
there, in the bed of a crater, the shadow of a withered lichen. And 



nights of three hundred hours. Dearest of lights, wan, pitted, least 
fatuous of lights. That’s it, babble. How long can it have lasted? 
Five minutes? Ten minutes? Yes, no more, not much more. But 
my sliver of sky is silvery with it yet. In the old days I used to 
count, up to three hundred, four hundred, and with other things 
too, the showers, the bells, the chatter of the sparrows at dawn, or 
with nothing, for no reason, for the sake of counting, and then I 
divided, by sixty. That passed the time, I was time, I devoured 
the world. Not now, any more. A man changes. As he gets on. 

In- the filthy kitchen, with its earth floor, Sapo had his place, 
by the window. Big Lambert and his son left their work, came 
and shook his hand, then went away, leaving him with the mother 
and the daughter. But they too had their work, they too went 
away and left him, alone. There was so much work, so little time, 
so few hands. The 4 voman, pausing an instant between two tasks, 
or in the midst of one, flung up her arms and, in the same breath, 
unable to sustain their great weight, let them fall again. Then she 
began to toss them about in a way difficult to describe, and not 
easy to understand. The movements resembled those, at once 
frantic and slack, of an arm shaking a duster, or a rag, to rid it 
of its dust. And so rapid was the trepidation of the limp, empty 
hands that there seemed to be four or five at the end of each arm, 
instead of the usual one. At the same time angry unanswerable 
questions, such as. What’s the use? fell from her lips. Her hair 
came loose and fell about her face. It was thick, grey and dirty, 
for she had no time to tend it, and her face was pale and thin and 
as though gouged with worry and its attendant rancours. The 
bosom — no, what matters is the head and then the hands it calls 
to its help before all else, that clasp, wring, then sadly resume 
their labour, lifting the old inert objects and changing their 
position, bringing them closer together and moving them further 
apart. But this pantomime and these ejaculations were not 
intended for any living person. For every u iay and several times a 
day she gave way to them, within doors and without. Then she 
little cared whether she was observed or not, whether what she 
was doing was urgent or could wait, no, but she dropped every- 
thing and began to cry out and gesticulate, the last of all the 



living as likely as not and dead to what was going on about her. 
Then she fell silent and stood stockstill a moment, before resum- 
ing whatever it was she had abandoned or setting about some new 
task. Sapo remained alone, by the window, the bowl of goat’s 
milk on the table before him, forgotten. It was summer. The room 
was dark in spite of the door and window open on the great 
outer light. Through these narrow openings, far apart, the light 
poured, lit up a little space, then died, undiffused. It had no 
steadfastness, no assurance of lasting as long as day lasted. But it 
entered at every moment, renewed from without, entered and died 
at every moment, devoured by the dark. And at the least abate- 
ment of the inflow the room grew darker and darker until nothing 
in it was visible any more. For the dark had triumphed. And Sapo, 
his face turned towards an earth so resplendent that it hurt his 
eyes, felt at his back and all about him the uflconquerable dark, 
and it licked the light on his face. Sometimes abruptly he turned 
to face it, letting it envelop and pervade him, with a kind of 
relief. Then he heard more clearly the sounds of those at work, 
the daughter calling to her goats, the father cursing his mule. But 
silence was in the heart of the dark, the silence of dust and the 
things that would never stir, if left alone. And the ticking of the 
invisible alarm-clock was as the voice of that silence which, like 
the dark, would one day triumph too. And then all would be still 
and dark and all things at rest for ever at last. Finally he took 
from his pocket the few poor gifts he had brought, laid them on 
the table and went. But it sometimes happened, before he decided 
to go, before he went rather, for there was no decision, that a hen, 
taking advantage of the open door, would venture into the room. 
No sooner had she crossed the threshold than she paused, one 
leg hooked up under her breech, her head on one side, blinking, 
anxious. Then, reassured, she advanced a little further, jerkily, 
with concertina neck. It was a grey hen, perhaps the grey hen. 
Sapo got to know her»well and, it seemed to him, to be well 
known by her. If he rose to go she did not fly into a flutter. But 
perhaps there were several hens, all grey and so alike in other 
respects that Sapo’s eye, avid of resemblances, could not tell be- 
tween them. Sometimes she was followed by a second, a third and 



even a fourth, bearing no likeness to her, and but little to one 
another, in the matter of plumage and entasis. These showed 
more confidence than the grey, who had led the way and come to 
no harm. They shone an instant in the light, grew dimmer and 
dimmer* as they advanced, and finally vanished. Silent at first, 
fearing to betray their presence, they began gradually to scratch 
and cluck, for contentment, and to relax their soughing feathers. 
But often the grey hen came alone, or one of the grey liens if 
you prefer, for that is a thing that will never be known, though 
it might .well have been, without much trouble. For all that was 
necessary, in order that it might be known whether there was 
only one grey hen or more than one, was for someone to be 
present when all the hens came running towards Mrs. Lambert as 
she cried. Tweet! Tweet!, and banged on an old tin with an old 
spoon. But after a&I what use would that have been? For it was 
quite possible there were several grey hens, and yet only one in 
the habit of coming to the kitchen. And yet the experiment was 
worth making. For it was quite possible there was only one grey 
hen, even at feeding-time. Which would have clinched the matter. 
And yet that is a thing that will never be known. For among 
those who must have known, some arc dead and the others have 
forgotten. And the day when it was urgent for Sapo to have this 
point cleared up, and his mind set at rest, it was too late. Then he 
was sorry he had not understood, in time to profit by it, the 
importance that those hours were one day to assume, for him, 
those long hours in that old kitchen where, neither quite indoors 
nor quite out of doors, he waited to be on his feet again, and in 
motion, and while waiting noted many things, among them this 
big, anxious, ashen bird, poised irresolute on the bright threshold, 
then clucking and clawing "behind the range and fidgeting her 
atrophied wings, soon to be sent flying with a broom and angry 
cries and soon to return, cautiously, with little hesitant steps, 
stopping often to listen, opening and shutting her little bright black 
eyes. And so he went, all unsuspecting, with the fond impression 
of having been present at everyday scenes of no import. He 
stooped to cross the threshold and saw before him the well, with 
its winch, chain and bucket, and often too a long line of tattered 



washing, swaying and drying in the sun. He went by the little 
path he had come by, along the edge of the meadow in the 
shadow of the great trees that bordered the stream, its bed a 
chaos of gnarled roots, boulders and baked mud. And so he went, 
often unnoticed, in spite of his strange walk, his halts and sudden 
starts. Or the Lamberts saw him, from far off or from near by, or 
some of them from far off and the others from near by, suddenly 
emerge from behind the washing and set off down the path. Then 
they did not try to detain him or even call goodbye, unresentful 
at his leaving them in a way that seemed so lacking in friendliness, 
for they knew he meant no harm. Or if at the time they could 
not help feeling a little hurt, this feeling was quite dispelled a 
little later, when they found on the kitchen-table the crumpled 
paper-bag containing a few little articles of haberdashery. And 
these humble presents, but oh how useful, and this oh so delicate 
way of giving, disarmed them too at the sight of the bowl of 
goat’s milk only half emptied, or left untouched, and prevented 
them from regarding this as an affront, in the way tradition 
required. But it would appear on reflection that Sapo’s departure 
can seldom have escaped them. For at the least moment within 
sight of their land, were it only that of a little bird alighting or 
taking to wing, they raised their heads and stared with wide eyes. 
And even on the road, of which segments were visible more than 
a mile away, nothing could happen without their knowledge, and 
they were able not only to identify all those who passed along it 
and whose remoteness reduced them to the size of a pin’s head, 
but also to divine whence they were coming, where they were 
going, and for what purpose. Then they cried the news to one 
another, for they often worked at a great distance apart, or they 
exchanged signals, all erect and turned towards the event, for it 
was one, before bowing themselves down to the earth again. And 
at the first spell of rest taken in common, about the table or 
elsewhere, each one gJIve his version of what had passed and 
listened to those of the others. And if at first they were not in 
agreement about what they had seen, they talked it over doggedly 
until they were, in agreement I mean, or until they resigned them- 
selves to never being so. It was therefore difficult for Sapo to glide 



away unseen, even in the deep shadow of the trees that bordered 
the stream, even supposing him to have been capable of gliding, 
for his movements were rather those of one floundering in a quag. 
And all raised their heads and watched him as he went, then 
looked aft one another, before stooping to the earth again. And on 
each face bent to the earth there played perhaps a little smile, a 
little rictus rather, but without malice, each wondering perhaps 
if the others felt the same thing and making the resolve to ask 
them, at their next meeting. But the face of Sapo as he stumbled 
away, "now in the shadow of the venerable trees he could not 
name, now in the brightness of the waving meadow, so erratic 
was his course, the face of Sapo was as always grave, or rather 
expressionless. And when he halted it was not the better to think, 
or the closer to pore upon his dream, but simply because the voice 
had ceased that tefld him to go on. Then with his pale eyes he 
stared down at the earth, blind to its beauty, and to its utility, 
and to the little wild many-coloured flowers happy among the 
crops and weeds. But these stations were short-lived, for he was 
still young. And of a sudden lie is off again, on his wanderings, 
passing from light to shadow, from shadow to light, unhcedingly. 

When I stop, as just now, the noises begin again, strangely 
loud, those whose turn it is. So that I seem to have again the 
hearing of my boyhood. Then in my bed, in the dark, on stormy 
nights, I could tell from one another, in the outcry without, the 
leaves, the boughs, the groaning trunks, even the grasses and the 
house that sheltered me. Each tree had its own cry, just as no 
two whispered alike, when the air was still. 1 heard afar the iron 
gates clashing and dragging at their posts and the wind rushing 
between their bars. There was nothing, not even the sand on the 
paths, that did not utter its 'try. The still nights too, still as the 
grave as the saying is, were nights of storm for me, clamorous 
with countless pantings. These I amused myself with identifying, 
as I lay there. Yes, I got great amusemtnt, when young, from 
their so-called silence. The sound I liked best had nothing noble 
about it. It was the barking of the dogs, at night, in the clusters 
of hovels up in the hills, where the stone-cutters lived, like genera- 
tions of stone-cutters before them. It came down to me where I 



lay, in the house in the plain, wild and soft, at the limit of earshot, 
soon weary. The dogs of the valley replied with their gross bay 
all fangs and jaws and foam. From the hills another joy came 
down, I mean the brief scattered lights that sprang up on their 
slopes at nightfall, merging in blurs scarcely brighter thar^the sky, 
less bright than the stars, and which the palest moon extinguished. 
They were things that scarcely were, on the confines of silence 
and dark, and soon ceased. So I reason now, at my ease. Standing 
before my high window I gave myself to them, waiting for them 
to end, for my joy to end, straining towards the joy of ended joy. 
But our business at the moment is less with these futilities than 
with my ears from which there spring two impetuous tufts of no 
doubt yellow hair, yellowed by wax and lack of care, and so long 
that the lobes are hidden. I note then, without emotion, that of 
late their hearing seems to have improved. Oh #iot that I was ever 
even incompletely deaf. But for a long time now I have been 
hearing things confusedly. There I go again. What I mean is 
possibly this, that the noises of the world, so various in themselves 
and which I used to be so clever at distinguishing from one 
another, had been dinning at me for so long, always the same old 
noises, as gradually to have merged into a single noise, so that all 
I heard was one vast continuous buzzing. The volume of sound 
perceived remained no doubt the same, I had simply lost the 
faculty of decomposing it. The noises of nature, of mankind and 
even my own, were all jumbled together in one and the same un- 
bridled gibberish. Enough. I would willingly attribute part of my 
shall I say my misfortunes to this disordered sense were I not 
unfortunately rather inclined to look upon it as a blessing. Mis- 
fortunes, blessings, I have no time to pick my words, I am in a 
hurry to be done. And yet no, I am in no hurry. Decidedly this 
evening I shall say nothing that is not false, I mean nothing that 
is not calculated to leave me in doubt as to my real intentions. 
For it is evening, even ?ight, one of the darkest I can remember, 
I have a short memory. My little finger glides before my pencil 
across the page and gives warning, falling over the edge, that the 
end of the line is near. But in the other direction, I mean of 
course vertically, I have nothing to guide me. I did not want to 



write, but I had to resign myself to it in the end. It is in order to 
know where I have got to, where he has got to. At first I did not 
write, I just said the thing. Then I forgot what I had said. A 
minimum of memory is indispensable, if one is to live really. 
Take hif family, for example, I really know practically nothing 
about his family any more. But that does not worry me, there is 
a record of it somewhere. It is the only way to keep an eye on 
him. But as far as I myself am concerned the same necessity does 
not arise, or does it? And yet I write about myself with the same 
pencil and in the same exercise-book as about him. It is because 
it is no longer I, I must have said so long ago, but another whose 
life is just beginning. It is right that he too should have his little 
chronicle, his memories, his reason, and be able to recognize the 
good in the bad, the bad in the worst, and so grow gently old all 
down the unchanging days and die one day like any other day, 
only shorter. That is my excuse. But there must be others, no less 
excellent. Yes, it is quite dark. I can see nothing. I can scarcely 
even see the window-pane, or the wall forming with it so sharp 
a contrast that it often looks like the edge of an abyss. I hear the 
noise of my little finger as it glides over the paper and then that 
so different of the pencil following after. That is what surprises 
me and makes me say that something must have changed. Whence 
that child I might have been, why not? And 1 hear also, there we 
are at last, I hear a choir, far enough away for me not to hear it 
when it goes soft. It is a song I know, I don't know how, and 
when it fades, and when it dies quite away, it goes on inside me, 
but too slow, or too fast, for when it comes on the air to me again 
it is not together with mine, but behind, or ahead. It is a mixed 
choir, or I am greatly deceived. With children too perhaps. I 
have the absurd feeling it is, conducted by a woman. It has been 
singing the same song for a long time now. They must be re- 
hearsing. It belongs already to the long past, it has uttered for 
the last time the triumphal cry on which [t ends. Can it be Easter 
Week? Thus with the year Seasons return. If it can, could not this 
song I have just heard, and which quite frankly is not yet quite 
stilled within me, could not this song have simply been to the 
honour and glory of him who was the first to rise from the dead. 


to him who saved me, twenty centuries in advance? Did I say the 
first? The final bawl lends colour to this view. 

I fear I must have fallen asleep again. In vain I grope, I can- 
not find my exercise-book. But I still have the pencil in my hand. 
I shall have to wait for day to break. God knows what I «m going 
to do till then. 

I have just written, I fear I must have fallen, etc. I hope this 
is not too great a distortion of the truth. I now add these few lines, 
before departing from myself again. I do not depart from myself 
now with the same avidity as a week ago for example. For this 
must be going on now for over a week, it must be over a week since 
I said, I shall soon be quite dead at last, etc. Wrong again. That 
is not what I said, I could swear to it, that is what I wrote. This 
last phrase seems familiar, suddenly I seem to have written it 
somewhere before, or spoken it, word for word. Yes, I shall soon 
be, etc., that is what I wrote when I realised I did not know what 
I had said, at the beginning of my say, and subsequently, and that 
consequently the plan I had formed, to live, and cause to live, at 
last, to play at last and die alive, was going the way of all my 
other plans. I think the dawn was not so slow in coming as I had 
feared, I really do. But I feared nothing, I fear nothing any more. 
High summer is truly at hand. Turned towards the window I saw 
the pane shiver at last, before the ghastly sunrise. It is no ordinary 
pane, it brings me sunset and it brings me sunrise. The exercise- 
book had fallen to the ground. I took a long time to find it. It 
was under the bed. How are such things possible? I took a long 
time to recover it. I had to harpoon it. It is not pierced through 
and through, but it is in a bad way. It is a thick exercise-book. I 
hope it will see me out. From now on I shall write on both 
sides of the page. Where docs it come from? I don’t know. I found 
it, just like that, the day I needed it. Knowing perfectly well I had 
no exercise-book I rummaged in my possessions in the hope of 
finding one. I was not ^disappointed, not surprised. If tomorrow I 
needed an old love-letter I would adopt the same method. It is 
ruled in squares. The first pages are covered with ciphers and 
other symbols and diagrams, with here and there a brief phrase. 
Calculations, I reckon. They seem to stop suddenly, prematurely 



at all events. As though discouraged. Perhaps it is astronomy, or 
astrology. I did not look closely. I drew a line, no, I did not even 
draw a line, and I wrote, Soon I shall be quite dead at last, and 
so on, without even going on to the next page, which was blank. 
Good. Now I need not dilate on this cxcrcise-book when it comes 
to the inventory, but merely say. Item, an exercise-book, giving 
perhaps the colour of the cover. But I may well lose it between 
now and then, for good and all. The pencil on the contrary is an 
old acquaintance, I must have had it about me when I was 
brought -here. It has five faces. It is very short. It is pointed at 
both ends. A Venus. I hope it will see me out. I was saying I did 
not depart from myself now with quite the same alacrity. That 
must be in the natural order of things, all that pertains to me 
must be written there, including my inability to grasp what order 
is meant. For I have never seen any sign of any, inside me or 
outside me. I have pinned my faith to appearances, believing them 
to be vain. I shall not go into the details. Choke, go down, come 
up, choke, suppose, deny, affirm, drown. I depart from myself 
less gladly. Amen. I waited for the dawn. Doing what? I don’t 
know. What I had to do. I watched for the window. I gave rein 
to my pains, my impotence. And in the end it seemed to me, for 
a second, that I was going to have a visit! 

The summer holidays were drawing to a close. The decisive 
moment was at hand when the hopes reposed in Sapo were to be 
fulfilled, or dashed to the ground. He is trained to a hair, said 
Mr. Saposcat. And Mrs. Saposcat, whose piety grew warm in 
times of crisis, prayed for his success. Kneeling at her bedside, in 
her night-dress, she ejaculated, silently for her husband would not 
have approved. Oh God grant he pass, grant he pass, grant he 
scrape through! 

When this first ordeal was surmounted there would be others, 
every year, several times a year. But it seemed to the Saposcats 
that these would be less terrible than the c lirst which was to give 
them, or deny them the right to say, He is doing his medicine, or. 
He is reading for the bar. For they felt that a more or less normal 
if unintelligent youth, once admitted to the study of these pro- 
fessions, was almost sure to be certified, sooner or later, apt to 



exercise them. For they had experience of doctors, and of 
lawyers, like most people. 

One day Mr. Saposcat sold himself a fountain-pen, at a dis- 
count. A Bird. I shall give it to him on the morning of the ex- 
amination, he said. He took off the long cardboard lid and showed 
the pen to his wife. Leave it in its box! he cried, as she made to 
take it in her hand. It lay almost hidden in the scrolled leaflet 
containing the instructions for use. Mr. Saposcat parted the edges 
of the paper and held up the box for his wife to look inside. But 
she, instead of looking at the pen, looked at him. He named the 
price. Might it not be better, she said, to let him have it the day 
before, to give him time to get used to the nib? You are right, he 
said, I had not thought of that. Or even two days before, she said, 
to give him time to change the nib if it does not suit him. A bird, 
its yellow beak agape to show it was singing, adorned the lid, 
which Mr. Saposcat now put on again. He wrapped with expert 
hands the box in tissue-paper and slipped over it a narrow rubber 
band. He was not pleased. It is a medium nib, he said, and it will 
certainly suit him. 

This conversation was renewed the next day. Mr. Saposcat 
said. Might it not be better if we just lent him the pen and told 
him he could keep it for his own, if he passed? Then we must do 
so at once, said Mrs. Saposcat, otherwise there is no point in it. 
To which Mr. Saposcat, made, after a silence, a first objection, 
and then, after a second silence, a second objection. He first 
objected that his son, if he received the pen forthwith, would 
have time to break it, or lose it, before the paper. He secondly 
objected that his son, if he received the pen immediately, and 
assuming he neither broke nor lost it, would have time to get so 
used to it and, by comparing it with the pens of his less im- 
poverished friends, so familiar with its defects, that its possession 
wouk. 'no longer tempt him. I did not know it was an inferior 
article, said Mrs. Sapofcat. Mr. Saposcat placed his hand on the 
table-cloth and sat gazing at it for some time. Then he laid down 
his napkin and left the room. Adrian, cried Mrs. Saposcat, come 
back and finish your sweet! Alone before the table she listened 
to the steps on the garden-path, clearer, fainter, clearer, fainter. 



The Lamberts. One day Sapo arrived at the farm earlier than 
usual. But do we know what time he usually arrived? Lengthen- 
ing, fading shadows. He was surprised to see, at a distance, in the 
midst of the young stubble, the father’s big red and white head. 
His bodj- was in the hole or pit he had dug for his mule, which 
had died during the night. Edmund came out of the house, wiping 
his mouth, and joined him. Lambert then climbed out of the hole 
and the son went down into it. Drawing closer Sapo saw the 
mule’s black corpse. Then all became clear to him. The mule was 
lying on its side, as was to be expected. The forelegs were stretched 
out straight and rigid, the hind drawn up under the belly. The 
yawning jaws, the wreathed lips, the enormous teeth, the bulging 
eyes, composed a striking death’s-head. Edmund handed up to 
his father the pick, the shovel and the spade and climbed out of 
the hole. Together*ihev dragged the mule bv the legs to the edge 
of the hole and heaved it in, on its back. The forelegs, pointing 
towards heaven, projected above the level of the ground. Old 
Lambert banged them down with his spade. He handed the spade 
to his son and went towards the house. Edmund began to fill up 
the hole. Sapo stood watching him. A great calm stole over him. 
Great calm is an exaggeration. He felt better. The end of a life is 
always vivifying. Edmund paused to rest, leaned panting on the 
spade and smiled. There were great pink gaps in his front teeth. 
Big Lambert sat by the window, smoking, drinking, watching his 
son. Sapo sat down before him, laid his hand on the table and 
his head on his hand, thinking he was alone. Between his head and 
his hand he slipped the other hand and sat there marble still. 
Louis began to talk. He seemed in good spirits. The mule, in his 
opinion, had died of old age. He had bought it, two years before, 
on its way to the slaughter-house. So he could not complain. After 
the transaction the owner of the mule predicted that it would 
drop down dead at the first ploughing. But Lambert was a con- 
noisseur of mules. In the case of mules it is the eye that counts, 
the rest is unimportant. So he looked the mule full in the eye, at 
the gates of the slaughter-house, and saw it could still be made 
to serve. And the mule returned his gaze, in the yard of the 
slaughter-house. As Lambert unfolded his story the slaughter- 



house loomed larger and larger. Thus the site of the transaction 
shifted gradually from the road that led to the slaughter-house to 
the gates of the slaughter-house and thence to the yard itself. 
Yet a little while and he would have contended for the mule with 
the knacker. The look in his eye, he said, was like a jrayer to 
me to take him. It was covered with sores, but in the case of 
mules one should never let oneself be deterred by senile sores. 
Someone said. He’s done ten miles already, you’ll never get him 
home, he’ll drop down dead on the road. I thought I might screw 
six months out of him, said Lambert, and I screwed two years. All 
the time he told this story he kept his eyes fixed on his son. 
There they sat, the table between them, in the gloom, one speak- 
ing, the other listening, and far removed, the one from what he 
said, the other from what he heard, and far from each other. The 
heap of earth was dwindling, the earth shope strangely in the 
raking evening light, glowing in patches as though with its own 
fires, in the fading light. Edmund stopped often to rest, leaning 
on the spade and looking about him. The slaughter-house, said 
Lambert, that’s where I buy my beasts, will you look at that 
loafer. He went out and set to work, beside his son. They worked 
together for a time, heedless of each other. Then the son dropped 
his shovel, turned aside and moved slowly away, passing from toil 
to rest in a single unbroken movement that did not seem of his 
doing. The mule was no longer visible. The face of the earth, on 
which it had plodded its life away, would see it no more, toiling 
before the plough, or the dray. And Big Lambert would soon 
be able to plough and harrow the place where it lay, with another 
mule, or an old horse, or an old ox, bought at the Knacker’s yard, 
knowing that the share would not turn up the putrid flesh or be 
blunted by the big bones. For he knew how the dead and buried 
tend, contrary to what one might expect, to rise to the surface, in 
which "they resemble the drowned. And he had made allowance 
for this when digging Jhe hole. Edmund and his mother passed 
each other by in silence. She had been to see a neighbour, to 
borrow a pound of lentils for their supper. She was thinking of 
the handsome steelyard that had served to weigh them and 
wondering if it was true. Before her husband too she rapidly 



passed, without a glance, and in his attitude there was nothing to 
suggest that he had seen her either. She lit the lamp where it 
stood at its usual place on the chimney-piece, beside the alarm- 
clock flanked in its turn by a crucifix hanging from a nail. The 
clock, be : ng the lowest of the three, had to remain in the middle, 
and the lamp and crucifix could not change places because of 
the nail from which the latter was hung. She stood with her fore- 
head and her hands pressed against the wall, until she might turn 
up the wick. She turned it up and put on the yellow globe which 
a larger hole defaced. Seeing Sapo she first thought he was her 
daughter. Then her thoughts flew to the absent one. She set down 
the lamp on the table and the outer world went out. She sat down, 
emptied out the lentils on the table and began to sort them. So 
that soon there were two heaps on the table, one big heap getting 
smaller and one snrall heap getting bigger. But suddenly with a 
furious gesture she swept the two together, annihilating thus in 
less than a second the work of two or three minutes. Then she 
went away and came back with a saucepan. It won’t kill them, 
she said, and with the heel of her hand she brought the lentils to 
the edge of the table and over the edge into the saucepan, as if 
all that mattered was not to be killed, but so clumsily and with 
such nervous haste that a great number fell wide of the pan to 
the ground. Then she took up the lamp and went out to fetch 
wood perhaps, or a lump of fat bacon. Now that it was dark 
again in the kitchen the dark outside gradually lightened and 
Sapo, his eye against the window-pane, was able to discern certain 
shapes, including that of Big Lambert stamping the ground. To 
stop in the middle of a tedious and perhaps futile task was some- 
thing that Sapo could readily understand. For a great number of 
tasks arc of this kind, without a doubt, and the only way to end 
them is to abandon them. She could have gone on sorting her 
lentils all night and never achieved her purpose, which was to 
free them from all admixture. But in tH end she would have 
stopped, saying, I have done all I can do. But she would not have 
done all she could have done. But the moment comes when one 
desists, because it is the wisest thing to do, discouraged, but not 
to the extent of undoing all that has been done. But what if her 



purpose, in sorting the lentils, were not to rid them of all that 
was not lentil, but only of the greater part, what then? I don’t 
know. Whereas there are other tasks, other days, of which one 
may fairly safely say that they are finished, though I do not see 
which. She came back holding the lamp high and a littie to one 
side, so as not to be dazzled. In the other hand she held a white 
rabbit, by the hindlegs. For whereas the mule had been black, the 
rabbit had been white. It was dead already, it had ceased to be. 
There are rabbits that die before they are killed, from sheer fright. 
They have time to do so while being taken out of the hutch, often 
by the ears, and disposed in the most convenient position to 
receive the blow, whether on the back of the neck or on some 
other part. And often you strike a corpse, without knowing it. 
For you have just seen the rabbit alive and well behind the wire 
meshing, nibbling at its leaves. And you congratulate yourself on 
having succeeded with the first blow, and not caused unnecessary 
suffering, whereas in reality you have taken all that trouble for 
nothing. This occurs most frequently at night, fright being greater 
in the night. Hens on the other hand are more stubborn livers and 
some have been observed, with the head already off, to cut a 
few last capers before collapsing. Pigeons too are less impression- 
able and sometimes even struggle, before choking to death. Mrs. 
Lambert was breathing hard. Little devil! she cried. But Sapo was 
already far away, trailing his hand in the high waving meadow 
grasses. Soon afterwards Lambert, then his son, attracted by the 
savoury smell, entered the kitchen. Sitting at the table, face to 
face, their eyes averted from each other’s eyes, they waited. But 
the woman, the mother, went to the door and called. Lizzy! she 
cried, again and again. Then she went back to her range. She 
had seen the moon. After a silence Lambert declared. I’ll kill 
Whitey tpmorrow. Those of course were not the words he used, 
but thai was the meaning. But neither his wife nor his son could 
approve him. the former because she would have preferred him 
to kill Blackey, the latter because he held that to kill the kids at 
such an early stage of their development, either of them, it was all 
the same to him, would be premature. But Big Lambert told 
them to hold their tongues and went to the corner to fetch the 



case containing the knives, three in number. All he had to do was 
to wipe off the grease and whet them a little on one another. Mrs. 
Lambert went back to the door, listened, called. In the far 
distance the flock replied. She’s coming, she said. But a long time 
passed before she came. When the meal was over Edmund went 
up to bed, so as to masturbate in peace and comfort before his 
sister joined him, for they shared the same room. Not that he was 
restrained by modesty, when his sister was there. Nor was she, 
when her, brother was there. Their quarters were cramped, certain 
refinements were not possible. Edmund then went up to bed, for 
no particular reason. He would have gladly slept with his sister, 
the father too, I mean the father would have gladly slept with his 
daughter, the time was long past and gone when he would have 
gladly slept with his sister. But something held them back. And 
she did not seem eager. But she was still young. Incest then was 
in the air. Mrs. Lambert, the only member of the household who 
had no desire to sleep with anybody, saw it coming with indiffer- 
ence. She went out. Alone with his daughter Lambert sat watch- 
ing her. She was crouched before the range, in an attitude of 
dejection. He told her to eat and she began to eat the remains of 
the rabbit, out of the pot, with a spoon. But it is hard to look 
steadily for any length of time at a fellow-creature, even when 
you are resolved to, and suddenly Lambert saw his daughter at 
another place and otherwise engaged than in bringing the spoon 
up from the pot into her mouth and down from her mouth into 
the pot again. And yet he could have sworn that he had not 
taken his eyes off her. He said. To-morrow we’ll kill Whitey, you 
can hold her if you like. But seeing her still so sad, and her 
cheeks wet with tears, he went towards her. 

What tedium. If I went on to the stone? No, it would be the 
same thing. The Lamberts, the Lamberts, docs it matter about 
the Lamberts? No, not particularly. But while I am with them the 
other is lost. How are my plans getting on, my plans, 1 had plans 
not so long ago. Perhaps I have another ten years ahead of me. 
The Lamberts! I shall try and go on all the same, a little longer, 
my thoughts elsewhere, I can’t stay here. I shall hear myself 
talking, afar off, from my far mind, talking of the Lamberts, 


talking of myself, my mind wandering, far from here, among its 

Then Mrs. Lambert was alone in the kitchen. She sat down 
by the window and turned down the wick of the lamp, as she 
always did before blowing it out, for she did not like to Mow out 
a lamp that was still hot. When she thought the chimney and 
shade had cooled sufficiently she got up and blew down the 
chimney. She stood a moment irresolute, bowed forward with 
her hands on the table, before she sat down again. Her day of 
toil over, day dawned on other toils within her, on the crass 
tenacity of life and its diligent pains. Sitting, moving about, she 
bore them better than in bed. From the well of this unending 
weariness her sigh went up unendingly, for day when it was 
night, for night when it was day, and day and night, fearfully, 
for the light she had been told about, afid told she could 
never understand, because it was not like those she knew, 
not like the summer dawn she would come again, to her 
waiting in the kitchen, sitting up straight on the chair, or 
bowed down over the table, with little sleep, little rest, but more 
than in her bed. Often she stood up and moved about the room, 
or out and round the ruinous old house. Five years now it had 
been going on, five or six, not more. She told herself she had a 
woman’s disease, but half-heartedly. Night seemed less night in 
the kitchen pervaded with the everyday tribulations, day less dead. 
It helped her, when things were bad, to cling with her fingers to the 
worn table at which her family would soon be united, waiting for 
her to serve them, and to feel about her, ready for use, the life- 
long pots and pans. She opened the door and looked out. The 
moon had gone, but the stars were shining. She stood gazing up 
at them. It was a scene that had sometimes solaced her. She went 
to the well and grasped the chain. Tne bucket was at the bottom, 
the windlass locked. So it was. Her fingers strayed along the 
sinuous links. Her mind was a press of formless questions, mingl- 
ing and crumbling limply away. Some seemed to have to do with 
her daughter, that minor worry, now lying sleepless in her bed, 
listening. Hearing her mother moving about, she was on the point 
of getting up and going down to her. But it was only the next 



day, or the day after, that she decided to tell her what Sapo had 
told her, namely that he was going away and would not come 
back. Then, as people do when someone even insignificant dies, 
they summoned up such memories as he had left them, helping 
one anolner and trying to agree. But we all know that little flame 
and its flickerings in the wild shadows. And agreement only 
comes a little later, with the forgetting. 

Mortal tedium. One day I took counsel of an Israelite on the 
subject of conation. That must have been when I was still looking 
for someone to be faithful to me, and for me to be faithful to. 
Then I opened wide my eyes so that the candidates might admire 
their bottomless depths and the way they phosphoresced at all 
we left unspoken. Our faces were so close that I felt on mine the 
wafts of hot air and sprays of saliva, and he too, no doubt, on 
his. I can see him Siill, the fit of laughter past, wiping his eyes and 
mouth, and myself, with downcast eyes, pained by my welted 
trousers and the little pool of urine at my feet. Now that T have 
no further use for him I may as well give his name, Jackson. I 
was sorry he had not a cat, or a young dog, or better still an old 
dog. But all he had to offer in the way of dumb companions was 
a pink and grey parrot. He used to try and teach it to say. Nihil 
in intellects etc. These first three words the bird managed well 
enough, but the celebrated restriction was too much for it, all you 
heard was a series of squawks. This annoyed Jackson, who kept 
nagging at it to begin all over again. Then Polly flew into a rage 
and retreated to a corner of its cage. It was a very fine cage, with 
every convenience, perches, swings, trays, troughs, stairs and 
cuttle-bones. It was even overcrowded, personally I would have 
felt cramped. Jackson called me the merino, I don’t know why, 
perhaps because of the French expression. I could not help think- 
ing that the notion of a wandering herd was better adapted to 
him than to me. But I have never thought anything but wind, the 
same that was never measured to me. relations with Jackson 
were of short duration. I could have put up with him as a friend, 
but unfortunately he found me disgusting, as did Johnson, Wilson, 
Nicholson, and Watson, all whoresons. I then tried, for a space, to 
lay hold of a kindred spirit among the inferior races, red, yellow. 



chocolate, and so on. And if the plague-stricken had been less diffi- 
cult of access I would have intruded on them too, ogling, sidling, 
leering, ineffing and conating, my heart palpitating. With the insane 
too I failed, by a hair’s-breadth. That must have been the way with 
me then. But the point is rather what is the way with r.«e now. 
When young the old filled me with wonder and awe. Bawling 
babies are what dumbfound me now. The house is full of them 
finally. Suave mari magno, especially for the old salt. What tedium. 
And I thought I had it all thought out. If I had the use of my 
body I would throw it out of the window. But perhaps it is the 
knowledge of my impotence that emboldens me to that thought. 
All hangs together, I am in chains. Unfortunately I do not know 
quite what floor I am on, perhaps I am only on the mezzanine. 
The doors banging, the steps on the stairs, the noises in the street, 
have not enlightened me, on this subject. All I- know is that the 
living are there, above me and beneath me. It follows at least that 
I am not in the basement. And do I not sometimes see the sky 
and sometimes, through my window, other windows facing it 
apparently? But that proves nothing, I do not wish to prove 
anything. Or so I say. Perhaps after all I am in a kind of vault 
and this space which I take to be the street in reality no more 
than a wide trench or ditch with other vaults opening upon it. 
But the noises that rise up from below, the steps that come 
climbing towards me? Perhaps there arc other vaults even deeper 
than mine, why not? In which case the question arises again as to 
which floor I am on, there is nothing to be gained by my saying I 
am in a basement if there are tiers of basements one on top of 
another. But the noises that I say rise up from below, the steps 
that I say come climbing towards me, do they really do so? I 
have no proof that they do. To conclude from this that I am a prey 
to hallucinations pure and simple is nowever a step I hesitate to 
take. And I honestly believe that in this house there are people 
coming and going and »even conversing, and multitudes of fine 
babies, particularly of late, which the parents keep moving about 
from one place to another, to prevent their forming the habit of 
motionlessness, in anticipation of the day when they will have to 
move about unai ded. But all things considered I would be hard 



set to say for certain where exactly they are, in relation to where 
exactly I am. And when all is said and done there is nothing more 
like a step that climbs than a step that descends or even that 
paces to and fro forever on the same level, I mean for one not 
only intignorance of his position and consequently of what he is 
to expect, in the way of sounds, but at the same time more than 
half-deaf more than half the time. There is naturally another 

possibility that does not escape me, though it would be a great 

disappointment to have it confirmed, and that is that I am dead 
already and that all continues more or less as when I was not. 

Perhaps I expired in the forest, or even earlier. In which case all 

the trouble I have been taking for some time past, for what 
purpose I do not clearly recall except that it was in some way 
connected with the feeling that my troubles were nearly over, has 
been to no purpose whatsoever. But my horse-sense tells me I 
have not yet quite ceased to gasp. And it summons in support of 
this view various considerations having to do for example with the 
little heap of my possessions, my system of nutrition and elimin- 
ation, the couple across the way, the changing sky, and so on. 
Whereas in reality all that is perhaps nothing but my worms. 
Take for example the light that reigns in this den and of which 
the least that can be said, really the least, is that it is bizarre. I 
enjoy a kind of night and day, admittedly, often it is even pitch 
dark, but in rather a different way from the way to which I 
fancy I was accustomed, before I found myself here. Example, 
there is nothing like examples, I was once in utter darkness and 
waiting with some impatience for dawn to break, having need of 
its light to see to certain little things which it is difficult to sec 
in the dark. And sure enough little by little the dark lightened and 
I was able to hook with my stick the objects I required. But the 
light, instead of being the dawn, turned out in a very short time 
to be the dusk. And the sun, instead of rising higher and higher 
in the sky as I confidently expected, calmly set, and night, the 
passing of which I had just celebrated after my fashion, calmly 
fell again. Now the reverse, as you might say, I mean day closing 
in the twilight of dawn, I must confess to never having exper- 



ienced, and that goes to my heart, I mean that I cannot bring 
myself to declare that I experienced that too. And yet how often 
I have implored night to fall, all the livelong day, with all my 
feeble strength, and how often day to break, all the livelong night. 
But before leaving this subject and entering upon another* I feel 
it is my duty to say that it is never light in this place, never really 
light. The light is there, outside, the air sparkles, the granite wall 
across the way glitters with all its mica, the light is against my 
window, but it does not come through. So that here all bathes, I 
will not say in shadow, nor even in half-shadow, but in a kind of 
leaden light that makes no shadow, so that it is hard to say from 
what direction it comes, for it seems to come from all directions 
at once, and with equal force. I am convinced for example that 
at the present moment it is as bright under my bed as it is under 
the ceiling, which admittedly is not saying much, but I need say 
no more. And does not that amount to simply this, that there is 
really no colour in this place, except in so far as this kind of grey 
incandescence may be called a colour? Yes, no doubt one may 
speak of grey, personally I have no objection, in which case the 
issue here would lie between this grey and the black that it over- 
lays more or less, 1 was going to say according to the time of day, 
but no, it does not always seem to depend on the time of day. I 
myself am very grey, I even sometimes have the feeling that I 
emit grey, in the same way as my sheets for example. And my 
night is not the sky’s. Naturally black is black the whole world 
over. But how is it my little space is not visited by the luminaries 
I sometimes see shining afar and how is it the moon where Cain 
toils bowed beneath his burden never sheds its light on my face? 
In a word there seems to be the light of the outer world, of those 
who know the sun and moon emerge at such an hour and at 
such another plunge again below the surface, and who rely on 
this, ano who know that clouds are always to be expected but 
sooner or later always jlass away, and mine. But mine too has 
its alternations, I will not deny it, its dusks and dawns, but that is 
what I say, for I too must have lived, once, out there, and there 
is no recovering from that. And when I examine the ceiling and 
walls I see there is no possibility of my making light, artificial 



light, like the couple across the way for example. But someone 
would have to give me a lamp, or a torch, you know, and I don’t 
know if the air here is of the kind that lends itself to the comedy 
of combustion. Mem, look for a match in my possessions, and 
see if burns. The noises too, cries, steps, doors, murmurs, cease 
for whole days, their days. Then that silence of which, knowing 
what I know, I shall merely say that there is nothing, how shall 
I merely say, nothing negative about it. And softly my little space 
begins to throb again. You may say it is all in my head, and 
indeed sometimes it seems to me I am in a head and that these 
eight, no, six, these six planes that enclose me arc of solid bone. 
But thence to conclude the head is mine, no, never. A kind of air 
circulates, I must have iaid so, and when all goes still 1 hear it 
beating against the walls and being beaten back by them. And 
then somewhere ks midspacc other waves, other onslaughts, gather 
and break, whence I suppose the faint sound of aerial surf that is 
my silence. Or else it is the sudden storm, analogous to those 
outside, rising and drowning the cries of the children, the dying, 
the lovers, so that in my innocence 1 say they cease, whereas in 
reality they never cease. It is difficult to decide. And in the skull 
is it a vacuum? I ask. And if I close my eyes, close them really, 
as others cannot, but as I can, for there are limits to my im- 
potence, then sometimes my bed is caught up into the air and 
tossed like a straw by the swirling eddies, and I in it. Fortunately 
it is not so much an affair of eyelids, but as it were the soul that 
must be veiled, that soul denied in vein, vigilant, anxious, turning 
in its cage as in a lantern, in the night without haven or craft 
or matter or understanding. Ah yes, I have my little pastimes and 

What a misfortune, the pencil must have slipped from my 
fingers, for I have only just succeeded in recovering it after forty- 
eight hours (see above) of intermittent efforts. What mv stick lacks 
is a little prehensile proboscis like the nocturnal tapir’s. I should 
really lose my pencil more often, it might do me good, I might be 
more cheerful, it might be more cheerful. I have spent two un- 
forgettable days of which nothing will ever be known, it is too 
late now, or still too soon, I forget which, except that they have 



brought me the solution and conclusion of the whole sorry business, 
I mean the business of Malone (since that is what I am called 
now) and of the other, for the rest is no business of mine. And 
it was, though more unutterable, like the crumbling away of two 
little heaps of finest sand, or dust, or ashes, of unequal s ; fe, but 
diminishing together as it were in ratio, if that means anything, 
and leaving behind them, each in its own stead, the blessedness 
of absence. While this was going on I was struggling to retrieve 
my pencil, by fits and starts. My pencil. It is a little Venus, still 
green no doubt, with five or six facets, pointed at both ends and 
so short there is just room, between them, for my thumb and the 
two adjacent fingers, gathered together in a little vice. I use the 
two points turn and turn about, sucking them frequently, I love 
to suck. And when they go quite blunt I strip them with my nails 
which are long, yellow, sharp and brittle for want of chalk or is 
it phosphate. So little by little my little pencil dwindles, inevitably, 
and the day is fast approaching when nothing will remain but a 
fragment too tiny to hold. So I write as lightly as I can. But the 
lead is hard and would leave no trace if I wrote too lightly. But 
I say to myself. Between a hard lead with which one dare not 
write too lightly, if a trace is to be left, and a soft fat lead which 
blackens the page almost without touching it, what possible 
difference can there be, from the point of view of durability. Ah 
yes, I have my little pastimes. The strange thing is I have another 
pencil, made in France, a long cylinder hardly broached, in the 
bed with me somewhere I think. So I have nothing to worry about, 
on this score. And yet 1 do worry. Now while 1 was hunting for 
my pencil I made a curious discovery. The floor is whitening. I 
struck it several blows with my stick and the sound it gave forth 
was at once sharp and dull, wrong in fact. So it was not without 
some trepidation that I inspected the other great planes, above 
and all about me. And all this time the sand kept trickling away 
and I saying to myself, I f i is gone for ever, meaning of course the 
pencil. And I saw that all these superficies, or should I say in- 
fraficies, the horizontal as well as the perpendicular, though they 
do not look particularly perpendicular from here, had visibly 
blanched since my last examination of them, dating from I know 



not when. And this is all the more singular as the tendency of 
things in general is I believe rather to darken, as time wears on, 
with of course the exception of our mortal remains and certain 
parts of the body which lose their natural colour and from which 
the bl^Kxl recedes in the long run. Does this mean there is more 
light here now, now that I know what is going on? No, I fear 
not, it is the same grey as heretofore, literally sparkling at times, 
then growing murky and dim, thickening is perhaps the word, 
until all things are blotted out except the window which seems in 
a manner of speaking to be my umbilicus, so that I say to myself. 
When it too goes out I shall know more or less where I am. No, 
all I mean is this, that when I open staring wide my eyes I see at 
the confines of this restless gloom a gleam and shimmering as of 
bones, which was not hitherto the case, to the best of my 
knowledge. And, I can even distinctly remember the paper- 
hangings or wall-paper still clinging in places to the walls and 
covered with a writhing mass of roses, violets and other flowers 
in such profusion that it seemed to me I had never seen so many 
in the whole course of my life, nor of such beauty. But now they 
seem to be all gone, quite gone, and if there were no flowers on 
the ceiling there was no doubt something else, cupids perhaps, 
gone too, without leaving a trace. And while I was busy pursuing 
my pencil a moment came when my exercise-book, almost a 
child’s, fell also to the ground. But it I very soon recovered, slipping 
the hook of my stick into one of the rents in the cover and hoist- 
ing it gently towards me. And during all this time, so fertile in 
incidents and mishaps, in my head I suppose all was streaming 
and emptying away as through a sluice, to my great joy, until 
finally nothing remained, either of Malone or of the other. And 
what is more I was able «to follow without difficulty the various 
phases of this deliverance and felt no surprise at its irregular 
course, now rapid, now slow, so crystal clear was my understand- 
ing of the reasons why this could not be,, otherwise. And I rejoiced 
furthermore, quite apart from the spectacle, at the thought that I 
now knew what I had to do, I whose every move has always been 
a groping, and whose motionlessness too was a kind of groping, 
yes, I have greatly groped stockstill. And here again naturally 1 



was utterly deceived, I mean in imagining I had grasped at last 
the true nature of my absurd tribulations, but not so utterly as to 
feel the need to reproach myself with it now. For even as I said. 
How easy and beautiful it all is!, in the same breath I said. All 
will grow dark again. And it is without excessive sorrow^ that I 
see us again as we arc, namely to be removed grain by grain until 
the hand, wearied, begins to play, scooping us up and letting us 
trickle back into the same place, dreamily as the saying is. For I 
knew it would be so, even as I said. At last! And I must say that 
to me at least and for as long as I can remember the sensation 
is familiar of a blind and tired hand delving feebly in my particles 
and letting them trickle between its fingers. And sometimes, when 
all is quiet, I feel it plunged in me up 10 the elbow, but gentle, 
and as though sleeping. But soon it stirs, wakes, fondles, clutches, 
ransacks, ravages, avenging its failure to scatter me with one 
sweep. I can understand. But 1 have felt so many strange things, 
so many baseless things assuredly, that they are perhaps better 
left unsaid. To speak for example of the times when I go liquid 
and become like mud, what good would that do? Or of the others 
when I would be lost in the eye of a needle, I am so hard and 
contracted? No, those are well-meaning squirms that get me no- 
where. I was speaking then was I not of my little pastimes and I 
think about to say that I ought to content myself with them, 
instead of launching forth on all this ballsaching poppycock 
about life and death, if that is what it is all about, and I suppose 
it is, for nothing was ever about anything else to the best of my 
recollection. But what it is all about exactly I could no more 
say, at the present moment, then take up my bed and walk. It’s 
vague, life and death. I must have had my little private idea on 
the subject when I began, otherwise J would not have begun, I 
would have held my peace, I would have gone on peacefully being 
bored tr howls, having my little fun and games with the cones 
and cylinders, the millet grains beloved of birds and other panics, 
until someone was kind enough to come and coffin me. But it is 
gone clean out of my head, my little private idea. No matter, I 
have just had another. Perhaps it is the same one back again, 
ideas are so alike, when you get to know them. Be born, that’s 



the brainwave now, that is to say live long enough to get 
acquainted with free carbonic gas, then say thanks for the nice 
time and go. That has always been my dream at bottom, all the 
things that have always been my dream at bottom, so many 
strings and never a shaft. Yes, an old foetus, that’s what I am 
now, hoar and impotent, mother is done for. I’ve rotted her, 
she’ll drop me with the help of gangrene, perhaps papa is at the 
party too. I’ll land head-foremost mewling in the charnel-house, 
not that I’ll mewl, not worth it. All the stories I’ve told myself, 
clinging tp the putrid mucus, and swelling, swelling, saying. Got 
it at last, my legend. But why this sudden heat, has anything 
happened, anything changed? No, the answer is no, l shall never 
get bom and therefore never get dead, and a good job too. And 
if I tell of me and of that other who is my little one, it is as always 
for want of love well i’ll be buggered, I wasn’t expecting that, 
want of a homuncule, I can’t stop. And yet it sometimes seems 
to me I did get born and had a long life and met Jackson and 
wandered in the towns, the woods and wildernesses and tarried 
by the Seas in tears before the islands and peninsulas where night 
lit the little brief yellow lights of man and all night the great 
white and coloured beams shining in the caves where I was 
happy, crouched on the sand in the lee of the rocks with the smell 
of the seaweed and the wet rock and the howling of the wind the 
waves whipping me with foam or sighing on the beach softly 
clawing the shingle, no, not happy, l was never that, but wishing 
night would never end and morning never come when men wake 
and say. Come on, we’ll soon be dead, let's make the most of it. 
But what matter whether I was born or not, have lived or not, 
am dead or merely dying, I shall go on doing as I have always 
done, not knowing what it is I do, nor who I am, nor where I am, 
nor if I am. Yes, a little creature, I shall try and make a little 
creature, to hold in my arms, a little creature in my image, no 
matter what I say. And seeing what a -poor thing I heve made, 
or how like myself, I shall cat it. Then be alone a long time, 
unhappy, not knowing what my prayer should be nor to whom. 

I have taken a long time to find him again, but I have found 
him. How did I know it was he, I don’t know. And what can 



have changed him so? Life perhaps, the struggle to love, to eat, 
to escape the redresscrs of wrongs. I slip into him, I suppose in 
the hope of learning something. But it is a stratum, strata, with- 
out debris or vestiges. But before I am done I shall find traces of 
what was. I ran him down in the heart of the town, sitt ; ng on a 
bench. How did I know it was he? The eyes perhaps. No, I don’t 
know how I knew. I’ll take back nothing. Perhaps it is not he. 
No matter, he is mine now, living flesh and needless to say male, 
living with that evening life which is like a convalescence, if my 
memories are mine, and which you savour doddering about in the 
wake of the fitful sun, or deeper than the dead, in the corridors 
of the underground railway and the stench of their harassed mobs 
scurrying from cradle to grave to get to the right place at the 
right time. What more do I want? Yes, those were the days, 
quick to night and well beguiled with the search for warmth 
and reasonably edible scraps. And you imagine it will be so till 
the end. But suddenly all begins to rage and roar again, you are 
lost in forests of high threshing ferns or whirled far out on the 
face of wind-swept wastes, till you begin to wonder if you have 
not died without knowing and gone to hell or been born again 
into an even worse place than before. Then it is hard to believe 
in those brief years when the bakers were often indulgent, at 
close of day, and baking-apples, I was always a great man for 
apples, to be had almost for the whinging if you knew your way 
about, and a little sunshine and shelter for those who direly 
needed them. And there he is as good as gold on the bench, his 
back to the river, and dressed as follows, though clothes don’t 
matter, I know, I know, but he’ll never have any others, if I 
know anything about it. He has had them a long time already, to 
judge by their decay, but no matter, *they are the last. But most 
remarkable of all is his greatcoat, in the sense that it covers him 
completel; and screens him from view. For it is so well buttoned, 
from top to bottom, by 'means of fifteen buttons at the very least, 
set at intervals of three or four inches at the very most, that 
nothing is to be seen of what goes on inside. And even the two 
feet, flat on the ground demurely side by side, even they are partly 
hidden by this coat, in spite of the double flexion of the body, 



first at the base of the trunk, where the thighs form a right angle 
with the pelvis, and then again at the knees, where the shins 
resume the perpendicular. For the posture is completely lacking in 
abandon, and but for the absence of bonds you might think he 
was bo^nd to the bench, the posture is so stiff and set in the 
sharpness of its planes and angles, like that of the Colossus of 
Memnon, dearly loved son of Dawn. In other words, when he 
walks, or simply stands stockstill, the tails of this coat literally 
sweep the ground and rustle like a train, when he walks. And 
indeed (his coat terminates in a fringe, like certain curtains, and 
the thread of the sleeves too is bare and frayed into long waving 
strands that flutter in the wind. And the hands too are hidden. 
For the sleeves of this vast rag arc of a piece with its other parts. 
But the collar has remained intact, being of velvet or perhaps shag. 
Now as to the colour of this coat, for colour too is an important 
consideration, there is no good denying it, all that can be said is 
that green predominates. And it might safely be wagered that 
this coat, when new, was of a fine plain green colour, what you 
might call cab green, for there used to be cabs and carriages 
rattling through the town with panels of a handsome bottle green, 
I must have seen them myself, and even driven in them, I would 
not put it past me. But perhaps l am wrong to call this coat a 
greatcoat and perhaps I should rather call it an overcoat or even 
cover-me-down, for that is indeed the impression it gives, that it 
covers the whole body all over, with the exception obviously of 
the head which emerges, lofty and impassive, clear of its embrace. 
Yes, passion has marked the face, action too possibly, but it 
seems to have ceased from suffering, for the time being. But one 
never knows, does one? Now with regard to the buttons of this 
coat, they are not so much genuine buttons as little wooden 
cylinders two or three inches long, with a hole in the middle for 
the thread, for one hole is ample, though two and even four are 
more usual, and this because of the inordinate distension of the 
button-holes consequent on wear and tear. And cylinders is per- 
haps an exaggeration, for if some of these little sticks or pegs are 
in fact cylindrical, still more have no definable form. But all arc 
roughly two and a half inches long and thus prevent the lappets 



from flying apart, all have this feature in common. Now with 
regard to the material of this coat, all that can be said is that it 
looks like felt. And the various dints and bulges inflicted upon it 
by the spasms and contortions of the body subsist long after the 
fit is past. So much for this coat. I’ll tell myself stories Hbout the 
boots another time, if I can. The hat, as hard as iron, superbly 
domed above its narrow guttered rim, is marred by a wide crack 
or rent extending in front from the crown down and intended 
probably to facilitate the introduction of the skull. For coat and 
hat have this much in common, that whereas the coat is too big, 
the hat is too small. And though the edges of the split brim close 
on the brow like the jaws of a trap, nevertheless the hat is 
attached, by a string, for safety, to the topmost button of the 
coat, because, never mind. And were there nothing more to be 
said about the structure of this hat, the important thing would 
still remain unsaid, meaning of course its colour, of which all 
that can be said is this, that a strong sun full upon it brings out 
shimmers of buff and pearl grey and that otherwise it verges on 
black, without however ever really approaching it. AnS it would 
not surprise me to learn that this hat once belonged to a sporting 
gentleman, a turf-man or breeder of rams. And if we now turn 
to consider this coat and this hat, no longer separately, but in 
relation to each other, we are very soon agreeably surprised to 
see how well they are assorted. And it would not surprise me to 
learn that they had been bought, one at the hatter’s, the other at 
the tailor’s, perhaps the same day and by the same toff, for such 
men exist, I mean fine handsome men six foot tall and over and 
all in keeping but the head, small from over-breeding. And it is 
a pleasure to find oneself again in the presence of one of those 
immutable relations between harmoniously perishing terms and 
the effect of which is this, that when weary to death one is almost 
resigned to — I was going to say to the immortality of the soul, 
but I don’t see the connexion. But to pass on now to the garments 
that really matter, subjacent and even intimate, all that can be 
said is that this for the moment is delicate ground. For Sapo— 
no, I can’t call him that any more, and I even wonder how I was 
able to stomach such a name till now. So then for, let me see. 



for Macmann, that’s not much better but there is no time to lose, 
for Macmann might be stark staring naked under this surtout for 
all anyone would be any the wiser. The trouble is he does not 
stir. Since morning he has been here and now it is evening. The 
tugs, thecr black funnels striped with red, tow to their moorings 
the last barges, freighted with empty barrels. The water cradles 
already the distant fires of the sunset, orange, rose and green, 
quenches them in its ruffles and then in trembling pools spreads 
them bright again. His back is turned to the river, but perhaps it 
appears to him in the dreadful cries of the gulls that evening 
assembles, in paroxysms of hunger, round the outflow of the 
sewers, opposite the Bellevue Hotel. Yes, they too, in a last frenzy 
before night and its high crigs, swoop ravening about the offal. 
But his face is towards the people that throng the streets at this 
hour, their long day ended and the whole long evening before them. 
The doors open and spew them out, each door its contingent. For 
an instant they cluster in a daze, huddled on the sidewalk or in 
the gutter, then set off singly on their appointed ways. And even 
those who know themselves condemned, at the outset, to the 
same direction, for the choice of direction at the outset is not 
great, take leave of one another and part, but politely, with some 
polite excuse, or without a word, for they all know one another’s 
little ways. And God help him who longs, for once, in his re- 
covered freedom, to walk a little way with a fellow-creature, no 
matter which, unless of course by a merciful chance he stumble 
on one in the same plight. Then they take a few paces happily 
side by side, then part, each one muttering perhaps. Now there 
will be no holding him. At this hour then erotic craving accounts 
for the majority of couples. But these arc few compared to the 
solitaries pressing forward through the throng, obstructing the 
access to places of amusement, bowed over the parapets, propped 
against vacant walls. But soon they come to the appointed place, 
at home or at some other home, or abroud, as the saying is, in 
a public place, or in a doorway in view of possible rain. And 
the first to arrive have seldom long to wait, for all hasten towards 
one another, knowing how short the time in which to say all the 
things that lie heavy on the heart and conscience and to do all 



the things they have to do together, things one cannot do alone. 
So there they are for a few hours in safety. Then the drowsiness, 
the little memorandum book with its little special pencil, the 
yawned goodbyes. Some even take a cab to get more quickly to 
the rendezvous or, when the fun is over, home or to the hotel, 
where their comfortable bed is waiting for them. Then you see 
the last stage of the horse, between its recent career as a pet 
horse, or a race-horse, or a pack-horse, or a plough-horse, and 
the shambles. It spends most of its time standing still in an attitude 
of dejection, its head hanging as low as the shafts and harness 
permit, that is to say almost to the cobble-stones. But once in 
motion it is transformed, momentarily, perhaps because of the 
memories that motion revives, for the mere fact of running 
and pulling cannot give it much satisfaction* under such con- 
ditions. But when the shafts tilt up, announcing that a fare has 
been taken on board, or when on the contrary the back-hand 
begins to gall its spine, according as the passenger is seated facing 
the way he is going or, what is perhaps even more restful, with 
his back to it, then it rears its head, stiffens its houghs and looks 
almost content. And you see the cabman too, all alone on his 
box ten feet from the ground, his knees covered at all seasons and 
in all weathers with a kind of rug as a rule originally brown, the 
same precisely which he has just snatched from the rump of his 
horse. Furious and livid perhaps from want of passengers, the 
least fare seems to excite him to a frenzy. Then with his huge 
exasperated hands he tears at the reins or, half rising and leaning 
out over his horse, brings them down with a crack all along its 
back. And he launches his equipage blindly through the dark 
thronging streets, his mouth full of curses. But the passenger, 
having named the place he wants to go and knowing himself as 
helpless to act on the course of events as the dark box that 
encloses him, abandons t himself to the pleasant feeling of being 
freed from all responsibility, or he ponders on what lies before 
him, or on what lies behind him, saying. Twill not be ever thus, 
and then in the same breath, But twas ever thus, for there are not 
five hundred different kinds of passengers. And so they hasten, 
the horse, the driver and the passenger, towards the appointed 



place, by the shortest route or deviously, through the press of 
other misplaced persons. And each one has his reasons, while 
wondering from time to time what they are worth, and if they 
are the^rue ones, for going where he is going rather than some- 
where else, and the horse hardly less darkly than the men, though 
as a rule it will not know where it is going until it gets there, and 
not always even then. And if as suggested it is dusk, then another 
phenomenon to be observed is the number of windows and shop- 
windows that light up an instant, almost after the fashion of the 
setting sun, though that all depends on the season. But for 
Macmann, thank God, he’s still there, for Macmann it is a true 
spring evening, an equinoctial gale howls along the quays bordered 
by high red houses, many of which are warehouses. Or it is per- 
haps an evening yi autumn and these leaves whirling in the air, 
whence it is impossible to say, for here there are no trees, are per- 
haps no longer the first of the year, barely green, but old leaves 
that have known the long joys of summer and now are good for 
nothing kut to lie rotting in a heap, now that men and beasts have 
no more need of shade, on the contrary, nor birds of nests to lay 
and hatch out in. and trees must blacken even where no heart 
beats, though it appears that some stay green forever, for some 
obscure reason. And it is no doubt all the same to Macmann 
whether it is spring or whether it is autumn, unless he prefers 
summer to winter or inversely, which is improbable. But it must 
not be thought he will never move again, out of this place and 
attitude, for he has still the whole of his old age before him, and 
then that kind of epilogue when it is not very clear what is happen- 
ing and which does not seem to add very much to what has already 
been acquired or to shed any great light on its confusion, but 
which no doubt has its usefulness, as hay is left out to dry before 
being garnered. He will therefore rise, whether he likes it or not. 
and proceed by other places to another pjacc, and then by others 
still to yet another, unless he comes back here where he seems to 
be snug enough, but one never knows, does one? And so on, on, 
for long years. Because in order not to die you must come and go, 
come and go, unless you happen to have someone who brings you 
food wherever you happen to be, like myself. And you can remain 



for two, three and even four days without stirring hand or foot, 
but what are four days when you have all old age before you, and 
then the lingers of evaporation, a drop in the ocean. It is true you 
know nothing of this, you flatter yourself you are hangmg by a 
thread like all mankind, but that is not the point. For there is no 
point, no point in not knowing this or that, either you know all 
or you know nothing, and Macmann knows nothing. But he is 
concerned only with his ignorance of certain things, of those that 
appal him among others, which is only human. But it is bad 
policy, for on the fifth day rise you must, and rise in fact you 
do, but with how much greater pains than if you had made up 
your mind to it the day before, or better still two days before, 
and why add to your pains, it’s bad policy, assuming you do add 
to them, and nothing is less certain. For on the fifth day, when 
the problem is how to rise, the fourth and third do not matter 
any more, all that matters is how to rise, for you are half out 
of your mind. And sometimes you cannot, get to your feet I 
mean, and have to drag yourself to the nearest plot of vegetables, 
using the tufts of grass and asperities of the earth to drag your- 
self forward, or to the nearest clump of brambles, where there 
are sometimes good things to eat, if acid, and which are superior 
to the plots in this, that you can crawl into them and hide, as 
you cannot in a plot of ripe potatoes for example, and in this also, 
that often you frighten the little wild things away, both furred 
and feathered. For it is not as if he possessed the means of 
accumulating, in a single day, enough food to keep him alive for 
three weeks or a month, and what is a month compared to the 
whole of second childishness, a drop in a bucket. But he does not, 
possess them I mean, and could not employ them even if he did, 
he feels so far front the morrow. And perhaps there is none, no 
morrow *’.ny more, for one who has waited so long for it in vain. 
And pr iiiaps he has cogie to that stage of his instant when to live 
is to wander the last of the living in the depths of an instant 
without bounds, where the light never changes and the wrecks 
look all alike. Bluer scarcely than white of egg the eyes stare 
into the space before them, namely the fulness of the great deep 
and its unchanging calm. But at long intervals they close, with 



the gentle suddenness of flesh that tightens, often without anger, 
and closes on itself. Then you see the old lids all red and worn 
that seem hard set to meet, for there are four, two for each 
lachrymal. And perhaps it is then he sees the heaven of the 
old dream, the heaven of the sea and of the earth too, and 
the spasms of the waves from shore to shore all stirring to 
their tiniest stir, and the so different motion of men for 
example, who are not tied together, but free to come and go as 
they please. And they make full use of it and come and go, their 
great balls and sockets rattling and clacking like knackers, each 
on his way. And when one dies the others go on, as if nothing 
had happened. 

I feel 

I feel it’s coming. How goes it, thanks, it’s coming. I wanted 
to be quite sure before I noted it. Scrupulous to the last, finical to 
a fault, that’s Malone, all over. I mean sure of feeling that my 
hour is at hand. For I never doubted it would come, sooner or 
later, except the days I felt it was past. For my stories are all in 
vain, deep down I never doubted, even the days abounding in 
proof to the contrary, that I was still alive and breathing in and 
out the air of earth. At hand, that is in two or three days, in the 
language of the days when they taught me the names of the days 
and I marvelled at their being so few and flourished my little 
fists, crying out for more, and how to tell the time, and what are 
two or three days, more or less, in the long run, a joke. But not 
a word and on with the losing game, it’s good for the health. And 
all I have to do is go on as though doomed to sec the midsummer 
moon. For I believe I have now reached what is called the month 
of May, I don’t know why, I mean why I believe that, for May 
comes from Maia, hell, I remember that too, goddess of increase 
and plenty, yes, I believe I have entered on the season of increase 
and plenty, of increase at last, for plenty comes later, with the 
harvest. So quiet, quiet. I’ll be still here at All Saints, in the 
middle of the chrysanthemums, no, this year 1 shall not hear 
them howling over their charnels. But this sensation of dilation 
is hard to resist. All strains towards the nearest deeps, and notably 
my feet, which even in the ordinary way are so much further 



from me than all the rest, from my head I mean, for that is where 
I am fled, my feet are leagues away. And to call them in, to be 
cleaned for example, would I think take me over a month, ex- 
clusive of the time required to locate them. Strange, I don’t feel 
my feet any more, my feet feel nothing any more, and a 
mercy it is. And yet I feel they arc beyond the range 
of the most powerful telescope. Is that what is known 
as having a foot in the grave? And similarly for the rest. 
For a mere local phenomenon is something I would not have 
noticed, having been nothing but a series or rather a succession 
of local phenomena all my life, without any result. But my fingers 
too write in other latitudes and the air that breathes through my 
pages and turns them without my knowing, when I doze off, so 
that the subject falls far from the verb and the object lands 
somewhere in the void, is not the air of this second-last abode, 
and a mercy it is. And perhaps on my hands it is the shimmer of 
the shadows of leaves and flowers and the brightness of a for- 
gotten sun. Now my sex, I mean the tube itself, and in particular 
the nozzle, from which when I was yet a virgin clouts and gouts 
of sperm came streaming and splashing up into my face, a con- 
tinuous flow, while it lasted, and which must still drip a little piss 
from time to time, otherwise I would be dead of uraemia, I do 
not expect to see my sex again, with my naked eye, not that I 
wish to, we’ve stared at each other long enough, in the eye, but 
it gives you some idea. But that is not all and my extremities are 
not the only parts to recede, in their respective directions, far 
from it. For my arse for example, which can hardl> be accused 
of being the end of anything, if my arse suddenly started to shit 
at the present moment, which God forbid, I firmly believe the 
lumps would fall out in Australia. Xnd if I were to stand up 
again, from which God preserve me, I fancy I would fill a con- 
siderable part of the universe, oh not more than lying down, but 
more noticeably. For it is a thing I have often noticed, the best 
way to pass unnoticed is to lie down flat and not move. And so 
there I am, who always thought I would shrivel and shrivel, 
more and more, until in the end I could be almost buried in a 
casket, swelling. No matter, what matters is that in spite of my 



stories I continue to fit in this room, let us call it a room, that’s 
all that matters, and I need not worry. I’ll fit in it as long as needs 
be. And if I ever succeed in breathing my last it will not be in 
the street, or in a hospital, but here, in the midst of my posses- 
sions, Seside this window that sometimes looks as if it were 
painted on the wall, like Tiepolo’s ceiling at Wurzburg, what a 
tourist I must have been, I even remember the diaeresis, if it is 
one. If only I could be sure, of my deathbed I mean. And yet 
how often I have seen this old head swing out through the door, 
low, for my big old bones weigh heavy, and the door is low, 
lower and lower in my opinion. And each time it bangs against 
the jamb, my head docs, for I am tall, and the landing is small, 
and the man carrying my feei cannot wait, before he starts down 
the stairs, for the whole of me to be out, on the landing I mean, 
but he has to start turning before that, so as not to bang into the 
wall, of the landing I mean. So my head bangs against the jamb, 
it’s inevitable. And it doesn’t matter to my head, in the state it is 
in, but the man carrying it says. Eh Bob easy!, out of respect 
perhaps, for he doesn’t know me, he didn't know me, or for fear 
of hurting his fingers. Bang! Easy! Right! The door!, and the 
room is vacant at last and ready to receive, after disinfection, for 
you can’t be too careful, a large family or a pair of turtle doves. 
Yes, the event is past, but it’s too soon to use it, hence the delay, 
that’s what I tell myself. But l tell myself so many things, what 
truth is there in all this babble? 1 don't know. I simply believe I 
can say nothing that is not true, I mean that has not happened, 
it’s not the same thing but no matter. Yes, that’s what I like about 
me, at least one of the things, that I can say. Up the Republic!, 
for example, or. Sweetheart!, for example, without having to 
wonder if I should not rafher have cut my tongue out, or said 
something else. Yes, no reflection is needed, before or after, 1 
have only to open my mouth for it to testify to the old storv, my 
old story, and to the long silence that has silenced me, so that all 
is silent. And if I ever stop talking it will be because there is 
nothing more to be said, even though all has not been said, even 
though nothing has been said. But let us leave these morbid 
matters and get on with that of my demise, in two or three days 



if I remember rightly. Then it will be all over with the Murphys, 
Merciers, Molloys, Morans and Malones, unless it goes on be- 
yond the grave. But sufficient unto the day, let us first defunge, 
then we’ll see. How many have I killed, hitting them on the head 
or setting fire to them? Off-hand I can only think of four, all 
unknowns, I never knew anyone. A sudden wish, I have a sudden 
wish to see, as sometimes in the old days, something, anything, 
no matter what, something I could not have imagined. There 
was the old butler too, in London I think, there’s London again, I 
cut his throat with his razor, that makes five. It seems to me he 
had a name. Yes, what I need now is a touch of the unimaginable, 
coloured for preference, that would do ne good. For this may 
well be my last journey, down the long familiar galleries, with 
my little suns and moons that I hang aloft and. my pockets full of 
pebbles stand for men and their seasons, my last, if I’m lucky. 
Then back here, to me, whatever that means, and no more leaving 
me, no more asking me for what I haven’t got. Or perhaps we’ll 
all come back, reunited, done with parting, done with prying on 
one another, back to this foul little den all dirty white and 
vaulted, as though hollowed out of ivory, an old rotten tooth. Or 
alone, back alone, as alone as when I went, but I doubt it, I can 
them from here, clamouring after me down the corridors, stumb- 
ling through the rubble, beseeching me to take them with me. 
That settles that. I have just time, if I have calculated right, and 
if I have calculated wrong so much the better, I ask nothing 
better, besides I haven’t calculated anything, don’t ask anything 
either, just time to go and take a. little turn, come back here and 
do all I have to do, I forgot what, ah yes, put my possessions 
in order, and then something else, I forget what, but it will come 
back to me when the time comes. I?ut before I go I should like 
to find a hole in the wall behind which so much goes on, such 
extraordinary things, f^id often coloured. One last glimpse and 
I feel 1 could slip away as happy as if I were embarking for— I 
nearly said for Cythera, decidedly it is time for this to stop. After 
all this window is whatever I want it to be, up to a point, that’s 
right, don’t compromise yourself. What strikes me to begin with 
is how much rounder it is than it was, so that it looks like a 



bull’s-eye, or a porthole. No matter, provided there is something 
on the other side. First I sec the night, which surprises me, to my 
surprise, I suppose because I want to be surprised, just 
once moje. For in the room it is not night, I know, here it is 
never really night, I don’t care what I said, but often darker than 
now, whereas out there up in the sky it is black night, with few 
stars, just enough to show that the black night I see is truly of 
mankind and not merely painted on the window-pane, for they 
tremble, -like true stars, as they would not do if they were painted. 
And as if that were not enough to satisfy me it is the outer world, 
the other world, suddenly the window across the wav lights up, 
or suddenly I realize it is lit up, for 1 am not one of those people 
who can take in everything at a single glance, but I have to look 
long and fixedly aqd give things time to travel the long road that 
lies between me and them. And that indeed is a happy chance and 
augurs well, unless it be devised on purpose to make mock of 
me, for I might have found nothing better to speed me from this 
place thait the nocturnal sky where nothing happens, though it is 
full of tumult and violence, nothing unless you have the whole 
night before you to follow the slow fall and rise of other worlds, 
when there are any, or watch out for the meteors, and I have not 
the whole night before me. And it docs not matter to me whether 
they have risen before dawn, or not yet gone to bed, or risen in 
the middle of the night intending perhaps to go back to bed 
when they have finished, and it is enough for me to sec them 
standing up against each other behind the curtain, which is dark, 
so that it is a dark light, if one may say so, and dim the shadow 
they cast. For they cleave so fast together that they seem a single 
body, and consequently a single shadow. But when they totter it 
is clear they are twain, and in vain they clasp with the energy of 
despair, it is clear we have here two distinct and separate bodies, 
each enclosed within its own frontiers, ^nd having no need of 
each other to come and go and sustain the flame of life, for each 
is well able to do so, independently of the other. Perhaps they are 
cold, that they rub against each other so, for friction maintains 
heat and brings it back when it is gone. It is all very pretty and 
strange, this big complicated shape made up of more than one. 



for perhaps there are three of them, and how it sways and totters, 
but rather poor in colour. But the night must be warm, for of a 
sudden the curtain lifts on a flare of tender colour, pale blush 
and white of flesh, then pink that must come from a garment and 
gold too that I haven’t time to understand. So it is not oold they 
are, standing so lighty clad by the open window. Ah how stupid 
I am, I see what it is, they must be loving each other, that must 
be how it is done. Good, that has done me good. I’ll see now if 
the sky is still there, then go. They are right up against the 
curtain now, motionless. Is it possible they have finished already? 
They have loved each other standing, like dogs. Soon they will be 
able to part. Or perhaps they are just having a breather, before 
they tackle the titbit. Back and forth, back and forth, that must 
be wonderful. They seem to be in pain. Enough, enough, good- 

Caught by the rain far from shelter Macmann stopped and 
lay down, saying, The surface thus pressed against the ground 
will remain dry, whereas standing I would get uniformly wet all 
over, as if rain were a mere matter of drops per Hour, like 
electricity. So he lay down, prostrate, after a moment’s hesitation, 
for he could just as easily have lain down supine or, meeting 
himself half-way, on one of his two sides. But he fancied that 
the nape of the neck and the back right down to the loins were 
more vulnerable than the chest and belly, not realizing, any more 
than if he had been a crate of tomatoes, that all these parts are 
intimately and even indissolubly bound up together, at least until 
death do them part, and to many another too of which he had no 
conception, and a drop of water out of season on the coccyx 
for example may lead to spasms of the risorius lasting for years 
as when, having waded through a bog, you merely die of 
pneumonia and your legs none the vvorse for the wetting, but if 
anythi’ g better, thanks perhaps to the action of the bog-water. 
It w"s a heavy, cold anfl perpendicular rain, which led Macmann 
to suppose it would be brief, as if there were a relation between 
violence and duration, and that he would spring to his feet in 
ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, his front, no, his back, white 
with, no, front was right, his front white with dust. This is the 



kind of story he has been telling himself all his life, saying. This 
cannot possibly last much longer. It was sometime in the after- 
noon, impossible to say more, for hours and hours past it had 
been the same leaden light, so it was very probably the afternoon, 
very. TKe still air, though not cold as in winter, seemed without 
promise or memory of warmth. Incommoded by the rain pouring 
into his hat through the crack, Macmann took it off and laid it 
on his temple, that is to say turned his head and pressed his 
cheek to the ground. His hands at the ends of the long out- 
stretched arms clutched the grass, each hand a tuft, with as much 
energy as if he had been spreadeagled against the face of a cliff. 
Let us by all means continue this description. The rain pelted 
down on his back with the sound first of a drum, but in a short time 
of washing, as when washing is soused gurgling and squelching in 
a tub, and he distinguished clearly and with interest the difference 
in noise of the rain falling on him and falling on the earth. For 
his ear, which is on the same plane as the cheek or nearly, was 
glued to the earth in a way it seldom is in wet weather, and he 
could hear the kind of distant roar of the earth drinking and the 
sighing of the soaked bowed grasses. The idea of punishment 
came to his mind, addicted it is true to that chimera and probably 
impressed by the posture of the body and the fingers clenched 
as though in torment. And without knowing exactly what his sin 
was he felt full well that living was not a sufficient atonement for 
it or that this atonement was in itself a sin, calling for more 
atonement, and so on, as if there could be anything but life, for 
the living. And no doubt he would have wondered if it was really 
necessary to be guilty in order to be punished but for the memory, 
more and more galling, of his having consented to live in his 
mother, than to leave her. 'And this again he could not see as 
his true sin, but as yet another atonement which had miscarried 
and, far from cleansing him of his sin, plunged him in it deeper 
than before. And truth to tell the ideas guilt and punishment 
were confused together in his mind, as those of cause and effect 
so often are in the minds of those who continue to think. And it 
was often in fear and trembling that he suffered, saying. This will 
cost me dear. But not knowing how to go about it, in order to 



think and feel correctly, he would suddenly begin to smile for no 
reason, as now, as then, for already it is long since that afternoon, 
in March perhaps, or in November perhaps, in October rather, 
when the rain caught him far from shelter, to smile and give 
thanks for the teeming rain and the promise it contained of stars 
a little later, to light his way and enable him to get his bearings, 
should he wish to do so. For he did not know quite where he was, 
except that he was in a plain, and the mountains not far, nor the 
sea, nor the town, and that all he needed was a dust of light and 
a few fixed stars to enable him to make definite headway towards 
the one, or the other, or the third, or to hold fast where he was, 
in the plain, as he might be pleased to decide. For in order to 
hold fast in the place where you happen to be you need light 
too, unless you go round in circles, which is practically impossible 
in the dark, or halt and wait, motionless, for day to dawn again, 
and then you die of cold, unless it does not happen to be cold. 
But Macmann would have been more than human, after forty or 
forty-five minutes of sanguine expectation, seeing the rain persist 
as heavy as ever and day recede at last, if he had nof begun to 
reproach himself with what he had done, namely with having lain 
down on the ground instead of continuing on his course, in as 
straight a line as possible, in the hope of chancing sooner or 
later on a tree, or a ruin. And instead of being astonished at 
such long and violent rain, he was astonished at not having under- 
stood, from the moment the first timid drops began to fall, that it 
was going to rain violently and long and that he must not 
stop and lie down, but on the contrary press forward, as fast 
as his legs could carry him, for he was no more than human, 
than the son and grandson and greatgrandson of humans. But 
between him and those grave and sober men, first bearded, 
then moustached, there was this difference, that his semen 
had never done any harm to anyone. So his link with his 
species was through fiis ascendants only, who were all dead, 
in the fond hope they had perpetuated themselves. But the 
better late than never thanks to which true men, true links, 
can acknowledge the error of their ways and hasten on to the 
next, was beyond the power of Macmann, to whom it some- 



times seemed that he could grovel and wallow in his mortality 
until the end of time and not have done. And without going so 
far as that, he who has waited long enough will wait for ever. 
And there comes the hour when nothing more can happen and 
nobody «nore can come and all is ended but the waiting that 
knows itself in vain. Perhaps he had come to that. And when (for 
example) you die, it is too late, you have been watting too long, 
you are no longer sufficiently alive to be able to stop. Perhaps he 
had come to that. But apparently not, though acts don’t matter, 
I know, I know, nor thoughts. For having reproached himself 
with what he had done, and with his monstrous error of apprecia- 
tion, instead of springing up and hurrying on he turned over on 
his back, thus offering all his front to the deluge. And it was then 
his hair appeared clearly for the first time since his walks bare- 
headed in the smiling haunts of his youth, his hat having re- 
mained in the place which his head had just left. For when, lying 
on your stomach in a wild and practically illimitable part of the 
country, you turn over on your back, then there is a sideways 
movement of the whole body, including the head, unless you 
make a point of avoiding it, and the head comes to rest at x 
inches approximately from where it was before, x being the width 
of the shoulders in inches, for the head is right in the middle of 
the shoulders. But when you are in a narrow bed, I mean one 
just wide enough to contain you, a pallet shall we say, then it is 
in vain you turn over on your back, then back over on your 
stomach, the head remains always in the same place, unless you 
make a point of inclining it to the right or to the left, and some 
there doubtless are who go to this trouble, in the hope of finding 
a little freshness. He tried to look at the dark streaming mass 
which was all that remained*of sky and air, but the rain hurt his 
eyes and shut them. He opened his mouth and lay for a long time 
thus, his mouth open and his hands also and as far apart as 
possible from each other. For it is a curidtis thing, one tends less 
to clutch the ground when on one’s back than when on one’s 
stomach, there is a curious remark which might be worth follow- 
ing up. And just as an hour before he had pulled up his sleeves 
the better to clutch the grass, so now be pulled them up again 



the better to feel the rain pelting down on his palms, also called 
the hollows of the hands, or the flats, it all depends. And in the 
midst — but I was nearly forgetting the hair, which from the point 
of view of colour was to white very much as the hour’s gloom to 
black and from the point of view of length very long what*is more, 
very long behind and very long on either side. And on a dry and 
windy day it would have gone romping in the grass almost like 
grass itself. But the rain glued it to the ground and churned it 
up with the earth and grass into a kind of muddy pulp, not a 
muddy pulp, a kind of muddy pulp. And in the midst of his 
suffering, for one does not remain so long in such a position with- 
out being incommoded, he began to wish that the rain would 
never cease nor consequently his sufferings or pain, for the cause 
of his pain was almost certainly the rain, recumbency in itself 
not being particularly unpleasant, as if there Existed a relation 
between that which suffers and that which causes to suffer. For 
the rain could cease without his ceasing to suffer, just as he could 
cease to suffer without the rain’s ceasing on that account^ And on 
him already this important quarter-truth was perhaps beginning to 
dawn. For while deploring he could not spend the rest of his life 
(which would thereby have been agreeably abridged) under this 
heavy, cold (without being icy) and perpendicular rain, now 
supine, now prone, he was quarter-inclined to wonder if he was 
not mistaken in holding it responsible for his sufferings and if in 
reality his discomfort was not the effect of quite a different 
cause or set of causes. For people are never content to suffer, 
but they must have heat and cold, rain and its contrary which is 
fine weather, and with that love, friendship, black skin and sexual 
and peptic deficiency for example, in short the furies and frenzies 
happily too numerous to be numbered of the body including the 
skull and its annexes, whatever that means, such as the club-foot, 
in order that they may know very precisely what exactly it is that 
dares prevent their happiness from being unalloyed. And sticklers 
have been met with who had no peace until they knew for certain 
whether their carcinoma was of the pylorus or whether on the 
contrary it was not rather of the duodenum. But these are flights 
for which Macmann was not yet Hedged, and indeed he was 



rather of the earth earthy and ill-fitted for pure reason, especially 
in the circumstances in which we have been fortunate enough to 
circumscribe him. And to tell the truth he was by temperament 
more reptile than bird and could suffer extensive mutilation and 
survive,*happier sitting than standing and lying down than sitting, 
so that he sat and lay down at the least pretext and only rose 
again when the £lan vital or struggle for life began to prod him 
in the arse again. And a good half of his existence must have been 
spent in a motionlessness akin to that of stone, not to say the 
three quarters, or even the four fifths, a motionlessness at first 
skin-deep, but which little by little invaded, I will not say the vital 
parts, but at least the sensibility and understanding. And it 
must be presumed that he received from his numerous forbears, 
through the agency of his papa and his mama, a cast-iron vegetative 
system, to have itached the age he has just reached and which is 
nothing or very little compared to the age he will reach, as I know 
to my cost, without any serious mishap, I mean one of a nature 
to carry, him off on the spot. For no one ever came to his help, to 
help him avoid the thorns and snares that attend the steps of 
innocence, and he could never count on any other craft than his 
own, any other strength, to go from morning to evening and then 
from evening to morning without mortal hurt. And notably he 
never received any gifts of cash, or very seldom, and very paltry, 
which would not have mattered if he had been able to earn, in 
the sweat of his brow or by making use of his intelligence. But 
when given the job of weeding a plot of young carrots for 
example, at the rate of threepence or even sixpence an hour, it 
often happened that he tore them all up, through absentminded- 
ness, or carried away by I know not what irresistible urge that 
came over him at the sight of vegetables, and even of flowers, 
and literally blinded him to his true interests, the urge to make a 
clean sweep and have nothing before his eyes but a patch of 
brown earth rid of its parasites, it was often more than he could 
resist. Or without going so far as that, suddenly all swam before 
his eyes, he could no longer distinguish the plants destined for 
the embellishment of the home or the nutrition of man and beast 
from the weeds which are said to serve no useful purpose, but 



which must have their usefulness too, for the earth to favour 
them so, such as squitch beloved of dogs and from which man too 
in his turn has succeeded in extracting a brew, and the hoe fell 
from his hands. And even with such humble occupations as street- 
cleaning to which with hopefulness he had sometimes turned, on 
the off chance of his being a born scavenger, he did not succeed 
any better. And even he himself was compelled to admit that the 
place swept by him looked dirtier at his departure than on his 
arrival, as if a demon had driven him to collect, with the broom, 
shovel and barrow placed gratis at his disposal by the corporation, 
all the dirt and filth which chance had withdrawn from the sight 
of the tax-payer and add them thus recovered to those already 
visible and which he was employed to remove. With the result that 
at the end of the day, throughout the sector consigned to him, 
one could see the peels of oranges and bananas, cigarette-butts, 
unspeakable scraps of paper, dogs’ and horses’ excrement and 
other muck, carefully concentrated all along the sidewalk or 
distributed on the crown of the street, as though in orcjpr to in- 
spire the greatest possible disgust in the passers-by or provoke 
the greatest possible number of accidents, some fatal, by means 
of the slip. And yet he had done his honest best to give satis- 
faction, taking as his model his more experienced colleagues, 
and doing as they did. But it was truly as if he were not master 
of his movements and did not know what he was doing, while he 
was doing it, nor what he had done, once he had done it. For 
someone had to say to him. Look at what you have done, sticking 
his nose in it so to speak, otherwise he did not realize, but thought 
he had done as any man of good will would have done in his 
place and with very much the same results, in spite of his lack of 
experience. And yet when it came to' doing some little thing for 
himself, as for example when he had to repair or replace one of 
his buttons or pegs, which were not long-lived being mostly of 
green wood and exposed to all the rigours of the temperate zone, 
then he really exhibited a certain dexterity, without the help of 
any other apparatus than his bare hands. And indeed he had 
devoted to these little tasks a great part of his existence, that is 
to say of the half or quarter of his existence associated with more 



or less coordinated movements of the body. For he had to, he 
had to, if he wished to go on coming and going on the earth, 
which to tell the truth he did not, particularly, but he had to, for 
obscure reasons known who knows to God alone, though to tell 
the truftl God does not seem to need reasons for doing what he 
does, and for omitting to do what he omits to do, to the same 
degree as his creatures, does he? Such then seemed to be Mac- 
mann, seen from a certain angle, incapable of weeding a bed of 
pansies or marigolds and leaving one standing and at the same 
time well able to consolidate his boots with willow bark and 
thongs of wicker, so that he might come and go on the earth 
from time to time and not wound himself too sorely on the stones, 
thorns and broken glass piovided by the carelessness or wicked- 
ness of man, with hardly a complaint, for he had to. For he was 
incapable of picking his steps and choosing where to put down 
his feet (which would have permitted him to go barefoot). And 
even had he been so he would have been so to no great purpose, 
so little f was he master of his movements. And what is the good 
of aiming at the smooth and mossy places when the foot, missing 
its mark, comes down on the flints and shards or sinks up to the 
knee in the anv-pads? But to pass on now to considerations of 
another order, it is perhaps not inappropriate to wish Macmann, 
since wishing costs nothing, sooner or later a general paralysis at 
a pinch the arms if that is conceivable, in a place impermeable as 
far as possible to wind, rain, sound, cold, great heat (as in the 
seventh century) and daylight, with one or two eiderdowns just 
in case and a charitable soul say once a week bearing eating- 
apples and sardines in oil for the purpose of postponing as long 
as possible the fatal hour, it would be wonderful. But in the mean- 
time in the end, the rain ttill falling with unabated violence in 
spite of his having turned over on his back, Macmann grew rest- 
less, flinging himself from side to side as though in a fit of the 
fever, buttoning himself and unbuttoning and finally rolling over 
and over in the same direction, it little matters which, with a 
brief pause after each roll to begin with, and then without break. 
And in theory his hat should have followed him, seeing it was 
tied to his coat, and the string twisted itself about his neck, but 



not at all, for theory is one thing and reality another, and the hat 
remained where it was, I mean in its place, like a thing forsaken. 
But perhaps one day a high wind would come and send it, dry 
and light again, bowling and bounding over the plain until it 
came to the town, or the ocean, but not necessarily. Now it was 
not the first time that Macmann rolled upon the ground, but he 
had always done so without ulterior locomotive motive. Whereas 
then, as he moved further and further from the place where the 
rain had caught him far from shelter and which thanks to the hat 
continued to contrast with the surrounding space, he realized he 
was advancing with regularity, and even a certain rapidity, along 
the arc of a gigantic circle probably, for he assumed that one of 
his extremities was heavier than the other, without knowing quite 
which, but not by much. And as he rolled hs conceived and 
polished the plan of continuing to roll on all night if necessary, or 
at least until his strength should fail him, and thus approach the 
confines of this plain which to tell the truth he was in no hurry 
to leave, but nevertheless was leaving, he knew it. And Vithout 
reducing his speed he began to dream of a flat land where he 
would never have to rise again and hold himslf erect in equilib- 
rium, first on the right foot for example, then on the left, and 
where he might come and go and so survive after the fashion of 
a great cylinder endowed with the faculties of cognition and 
volition. And without exactly building castles in Spain, for that 
Quick quick my possessons. Quiet, quiet, twice, I have time, 
lots of time, as usual. My pencil, my two pencils, the one of which 
nothing remains between my huge fingers but the lead fallen from 
the wood and the other, long and round, in the bed somewhere, 
I was holding it in reserve, I won’t look for it, I know it’s there 
somewhere, if I have time when I’ve finished I’ll look for it, if I 
don’t fin * it I won’t have it. I’ll make the correction, with the 
other, if anything remain* of it. Quiet, quiet. My exercise-book, 
I don’t see it, but I feel it in my left hand, I don’t know where it 
comes from, I didn’t have it when I came here, but I feel it is 
mine. That’s the style, as if I were sweet and seventy. In that case 
the bed would be mine too, and the little table, the dish, the pots, 
the cupboard, the blankets. No, nothing of all that is mine. But 



the exercise-book is mine, I can’t explain. The two pencils then, 
the exercise-book and then the stick, which I did not have either 
when I came here, but which I consider mine, I must have des- 
cribed^ long ago. I am quiet, I have time, but I shall describe 
as little as possible. It is with me in the bed, under the blankets, 
there was a time I used to rub myself against it, saying. It’s a 
little woman. But it is so long that it sticks out under the pillow 
and finishes far behind me. I continue from memory. It is black 
dark. I can hardly see the window. It must be letting in the night 
again. Even if I had time to rummage in my possessions, to bring 
them over to the bed one by one or tangled together as is often 
the way with forsaken things, I would not see anything. And 
perhaps indeed I have the time, let us assume I have the time, 
and proceed as„if I had not. But it cannot be so long since I 
checked and went through all my things, in the light, in antici- 
pation of this hour. But since then I must have forgotten it all. 
A needle stuck into two corks to prevent it from sticking into me, 
for if file point pricks less than the eye, no, that’s wrong, for if 
point pricks more than the eye, the eye pricks too, that’s wrong 
too. Round the shank, between the two corks, a wisp of black 
thread clings. It is a pretty little object, like a — no, it is like 
nothing. The bowl of my pipe, though I never used a tobacco-pipe. 
I must have found it somewhere, on the ground, when out walking. 
There it was, in the grass, thrown away because it could no longer 
serve, the stem having broken off (I suddenly remember that) just 
short of the bowl. This pipe could have been repaired, but he 
must have said. Bah, I’ll buy myself another. But all I found was 
the bowl. But all that is mere supposition. Perhaps I thought it 
pretty, or felt for it that foul feeling of pity I have so often felt 
in the presence of things, especially little portable things in wood 
and stone, and which made me wish to have them about me and 
keep them always, so that I stooped ant' picked them up and put 
them in my pocket, often with tears, for I wept up to a great 
age, never having really evolved in the fields of affection and 
passion, in spite of my experiences. And but for the company of 
these little objects which I picked up here and there, when out 
walking, and which sometimes gave me the impression that they 



too needed me, I might have been reduced to the society of nice 
people or to the consolations of some religion or other, but I 
think not. And I loved, I remember, as I walked along, with 
my hands deep in my pockets, for I am trying to spea£ of the 
time when I could still walk without a stick and a fortiori without 
crutches, I loved to finger and caress the hard shapely objects that 
were there in my deep pockets, it was my way of talking to them 
and reassuring them. And I loved to fall asleep holding in my 
hand a stone, a horse chestnut or a cone, and I would be still 
holding it when I woke, my fingers closed over it, in spite of 
sleep which makes a rag of the body, so that it may rest. And 
those of which I wearied, or which were ousted by new loves, I 
threw away, that is to say I cast round for a place to lay them 
where they would be at peace forever, and no one ever find them 
short of an extraordinary hazard, and such places are few and 
far between, and I laid them there. Or I buried them, or threw 
them into the sea, with all my strength as far as possible from the 
land, those I knew for certain would not float, evenly briefly. But 
many a wooden friend too I have sent to the bottom, weighted 
with a stone. Until I realized it was wrong of me. For when the 
string is rotted they will rise to the surface, if they have not already 
done so, and return to the land, sooner or later. In this way I 
disposed of things I loved but could no longer keep, because of 
new loves. And often I missed them. But I had hidden them so 
well that even I could never find them again. That’s the style, as 
if I still had time to kill. And so I have, deep down I know it 
well. Then why play at being in a hurry? I don’t know. Perhaps 
I am in a hurry after all, it was the impression I had a short time 
ago. But my impressions. And what after all if I were not so 
anxious as I make out to recall to mind all that is left to me of 
all I ev'.r had, a good dozen objects at least to put it mildly? No 
no, I must. Then it’s something else. Where were we? My bowl. 
So I never got rid of it. I used it as a receptacle, I kept things in 
it, I wonder what I could have kept in it, so small a space, and I 
made a little cap for it, out of tin. Next. Poor Macmann. 
Decidedly it will never have been given to me to finish anything, 
except perhaps breathing. One must not be greedy. But is this 



how one chokes? Presumably. And the rattle, what about the 
rattle? Perhaps it is not de rigueur after all. To have mewled 
and not be bloody well able to rattle. How life dulls the power to 
protest f.o be sure. I wonder what my last words will be, written, 
the others do not endure, but vanish, into thin air. I shall never 
know. I shall not finish this inventory either, a little bird tells 
me so, the paraclete perhaps, psittaceously named. Be it so. A 
club in any case, I can’t help it, I must state the facts, without 
trying to understand, to the end. There are moments when I feel 
I have been here always, perhaps even was born here. Then it 
passes. That would explain many things. Or that I have come 
back after a long absence. But I have done with feeling and 
hypotheses. This club is mine and that is all about it. It is stained 
with blood, but insufficiently, insufficently. I have defended myself, 
ill, but I have defended myself. That is what I tell myself some- 
times. One boot, originally yellow, I forget for which foot. The 
other, its fellow, has gone. They took it away, at the beginning, 
before they realized I should never walk again. And they left the 
other, in the hope I would be saddened, seeing it there, without 
its fellow. Men arc like that. Or perhaps it is on top of the cup- 
board. I have looked for it everywhere, with my stick, but I never 
thought of the top of the cupboard. Till now. And as I shall never 
look for it any more, or for anything else, either on top of the 
cupboard or anywhere else, it is no longer mine. For only those 
things are mine the whereabouts of which I know well enough to 
be able to lay hold of them, if necessary, that is the definition I 
have adopted, to define my possessions. For otherwise there 
would be no end to it. But in any case there will be no end to it. 
It did not greatly resemble — but it is wrong of me to dwell upon 
it — the one I have preserved, the yellow one remarkable for the 
number of its eyeholes, I never saw a boot with so many eyeholes, 
useless for the most part, having ceased ,*o be holes, and become 
slits. All these things arc together in the corner in a heap. I could 
lay hold of them, even now, in the dark, I need only wish to do 
so. I would identify them by touch, the message would flow all 
along the stick, I would hook the desired object and bring it over 
to the bed, I would hear it coming towards me over the floor, 



gliding, jogging, less and less dear, I would hoist it up on the bed 
in such a way as not to break the window or damage the ceiling, 
and at last I would have it in my hands. If it was my hat I might 
put it on, that would remind me of the good old days, though I 
remember them sufficiently well. It has lost its brim, it looks like 
a bell-glass to put over a melon. In order to put it on and take 
it off you have to grasp it like a great ball, between your palms. 
It is perhaps the only object in my possession the history of which 
I have not forgotten, I mean counting from the day it became 
mine. I know in what circumstances it lost its brim, I was there 
at the time, it was so that I might keep it on while I slept. I 
should rather like it to be buried with me, a harmless whim, but 
what steps should I take? Mem, put it on on the off chance, well 
wedged down, before it is too late. But all in due time. Should I 
go on I wonder. I feel I am perhaps attributing to myself things I 
no longer possess and reporting as missing others that are not 
missing. And I feel there are others, over there in the corner, 
belonging to a third category, that of those of which 4 know 
nothing and with regard to which therefore there is little danger 
of my being wrong, or of my being right. And I remind myself 
also that since I last went through my possessions much water 
has passed beneath Butt Bridge, in both directions. For I have 
sufficiently perished in this room to know that some things go out, 
and other things come in, through I know not what agency. And 
among those that go out there are some that come back, after a 
more or less prolonged absence, and others that never come back. 
With the result that, among those that come in, some are familiar 
to me, others not. I don’t understand. And, stranger still, there 
exists a whole family of objects, having apparently very little in 
common, which have never left me, since I have been here, but 
remained quietly in their place, in the corner, as in any ordinary 
uninhabited room. Or elst^they were very quick. How false all that 
rings. But there is no guarantee things will be ever thus. I cannot 
account in any other way for the changing aspect of my posses- 
sions. So that, strictly speaking, it is impossible for me to know, 
from one moment to the next, what is mine and what is not, 
according to my definition. So I wonder if I should go on, I mean 



go on drawing up an inventory corresponding perhaps but faintly 
to the facts, and if I should not rather cut it short and devote 
myself to some other form of distraction, of less consequence, or 
simply,, wait, doing nothing, or counting perhaps, one, two, three 
and so on, until all danger to myself from myself is past at last. 
That is what comes of being scrupulous. If I had a penny I 
would let it make up my mind. Decidedly the night is long and 
poor in counsel. Perhaps I should persist until dawn. All things 
considered. Good idea, excellent. If at dawn I am still there I shall 
take a decision. I am half asleep. But I dare not sleep. Rectifi- 
cations in extremis, in extremissimis, are always possible after all. 
But have I not perhaps just passed away? Malone, Malone, no 
more of that. Perhaps I should call in all my possessions such as 
they are and take them into bed with me. Would that be of any 
use? I suppose not. But I may. I have always that resource. When 
it is light enough to see. Then I shall have them all round me, 
on top of me, under me, in the corner there will be nothing left, 
all will«be in the bed, with me. I shall hold my photograph in my 
hand, my stone, so that they can’t get away. I shall put on my 
hat. Perhaps I shall have something in my mouth, my scrap of 
newspaper perhaps, or my buttons, and I shall be lying on other 
treasures still. My photograph. It is not a photograph of me, but 
I am perhaps at hand. It is an ass, taken from in front and close 
up, at the edge of the ocean, it is not the ocean, but for me it is 
the ocean. They naturally tried to make it raise its head, so that 
its beautiful eyes might be impressed on the celluloid, but it holds 
it lowered. You can tell by its cars that it is not pleased. They 
put a boater on its head. The thin hard parallel legs, the little 
hooves light and dainty on the sand. The outline is blurred, 
that’s the operator’s giggle shaking the camera. The ocean looks 
so unnatural that you’d think you were in a studio, but is it not 
rather the reverse 1 should say? No trace left of an\ clothes for 
example, apart from the boot, the hat and three socks, I counted 
them. Where have my clothes disappeared, my greatcoat, my 
trousers and the flannel that Mr. Quin gave me, with the remark 
that he did not need it any more? Perhaps they were burnt. But 
our business is not with what I have no longer, such things do 



not count at such a moment, whatever people may say. In any 
case I think I’ll stop. I was keeping the best for the end, but I 
don’t feel very well, perhaps I’m going, that would surprise me. 
It is a passing weakness, everyone has experienced th^Jt. One 
weakens, then it passes, one’s strength comes back and one 
resumes. That is probably what is happening to me. I yawn, 
would I yawn if it was serious? Why not? I would gladly eat a 
little soup, if there was any left. No, even if there was some left 
I would not eat it. So there. It is some days now since my soup 
was renewed, did I mention that? I suppose so. It is in vain I 
dispatch my table to the door, bring it back beside me, move it 
to and fro in the hope that the noise will be heard and correctly 
interpreted in the right quarters, the dish remains empty. One of 
the pots on the other hand remains full, and the other is filling 
slowly. If I ever succeed in filling it I shall empty them both out 
on the floor, but it is unlikely. Now that I have stopped eating I 
produce less waste and so eliminate less. The pots do not seem to 
be mine, I simply have the use of them. They answer to the defin- 
ition of what is mine, but they are not mine. Perhaps it is the 
definition that is at fault. They have each two handles or ears, 
projecting above the rim and facing each other, into which I insert 
my stick. In this way I move my pots about, lift them up and set 
them down. Nothing has been left to chance. Or is it a happy 
chance? I can therefore easily turn them upside down, if I am 
driven to it, and wait for them to empty, as long as necessary. 
After this passing reference to my pots I feel a little more lively. 
They are not mine, but I say my pots, as I say my bed, my win- 
dow, as I say me. Nevertheless I shall stop. It is my possessions 
have weakened me, if I start talking about them again I shall 
weaken again, for the same causes give rise to the same effects. 
I should have liked to speak of the cap of my bicycle-bell, of my 
half-crutch, the top half,>you’d think it was a baby’s crutch. But 
I can still do so, what is there to prevent me? I don’t know. I can’t. 
To think I shall perhaps die of hunger, after all, of starvation 
rather, after having struggled successfully all my life against that 
menace. I can’t believe it. There is a providence for impotent old 
men, to the end. And when they cannot swallow any more some- 



one rams a tube down their gullet, or up their rectum, and fills 
them full of vitaminized pap, so as not to be accused of murder. 
I shall therefore die of old age pure and simple, glutted with days 
as in tjie days before the flood, on a full stomach. Perhaps they 
think I am dead. Or perhaps they are dead themselves. I say they, 
though perhaps I should not. In the beginning, but was it the 
beginning, I used to see an old woman, then for a time an old 
yellow arm, then for a time an old yellow hand. But these were 
probably no more than the agents of a consortium. And indeed 
the silence at times is such that the earth seems uninhabited. That 
is what comes of the taste for generalization. You have only to 
hear nothing for a few days, in your hole, nothing but the sounds 
of things, and you begin to fancy yourself the last of human 
kind. What if I started to scream? Not that I wish to draw atten- 
tion to myself, simply to try and find out if there is someone 
about. But I don’t like screaming. I have spoken softly, 
gone my ways softly, all my days, as behoves one who has 
nothing«to say, nowhere to go, and so nothing to gain by being 
seen or heard. Not to mention the possibility of there being not 
a living soul within a radius of one hundred yards and then such 
multitudes of people that they are walking on top of one another. 
They do not dare come near me. In that case I could scream my 
head off to no purpose. I shall try all the same. I have tried. I 
heard nothing out of the ordinary. No, I exaggerate, I heard a kind 
of burning croak deep down in the windpipe, as when one has 
heartburn. With practice I might produce a groan, before I die. 
I am not sleepy any more. In any case I must not sleep any 
more. What tedium. I have missed the ebb. Did I say I only say 
a small proportion of the things that come into my head? I must 
have. I choose those that seem somehow akin. It is not always 
easy. I hope they arc the most important. I wonder if I shall ever 
be able to stop. Perhaps I should throv: away my lead. I could 
never retrieve it now. I might be sorry. My little lead. It is a risk 
I do not feel inclined to take, just now. What then? I wonder if 
I could not contrive, wielding my stick like a punt-pole, to move 
my bed. It may well be on castors, many beds are. Incredible I 
should never have thought of this, all the time I have been here. 



I might even succeed in steering it, it is so narrow, through the 
door, and even down the stairs, if there is a stairs that goes down. 
To be off and away. The dark is against me, in a sense. But I 
can always try and see if the bed will move. I have only to set 
the stick against the wall and push. And I can see myself aVeady, 
if successful, taking a little turn in the room, until it is light 
enough for me to set forth. At least while thus employed I shall 
stop telling myself lies. And then, who knows, the physical effort 
may polish me off, by means of heart failure. 

I have lost my stick. That is the outstanding event of the day, 
for it is day again. The bed has not stirred. I must have missed my 
point of purchase, in the dark. Sine qua non, Archimedes was 
right. The stick, having slipped, would have plucked me from the 
bed if I had not let it go. It would of course have been better for 
me to relinquish my bed than to lose my stick. But I had not time 
to think. The fear of falling is the source of many a folly. It is a 
disaster. I suppose the wisest thing now is to live it over again, 
meditate upon it and be edified. It is thus that man distinguishes 
himself from the ape and rises, from discovery to discover^', ever 
higher, towards the light. Now that I have lost my stick I realize 
what it is I have lost and all it meant to me. And thence ascend, 
painfully, to an understanding of the Stick, shorn of all its acci- 
dents, such as I had never dreamt of. What a broadening of the 
mind. So that I half discern, in the veritable catastrophe that has 
befallen me, a blessing in disguise. How comforting that is. 
Catastrophe too in the ancient sense no doubt. To be buried in 
lava and not turn a hair, it is then a man shows what stuff he is 
made of. To know you can do better next time, unrecognizably 
better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing 
there is not, there is a thought to be going on with. I thought I 
was turning my stick to the best possible account, like a monkey 
scratching its fleas with the key that opens its cage. For it is 
obvious to me now that bV making a more intelligent use of my 
stick I might have extracted myself from my bed and perhaps 
even got myself back into it, when tired of rolling and dragging 
myself about the floor or on the stairs. That would have intro- 
duced a little variety into my decomposition. How is it that 



never occurred to me? It is true I had no wish to leave my bed. 
But can the sage have no wish for something the very possibility 
of which he does not conceive? I don’t understand. The sage 
perhaps. But I? It is day again, at least what passes for such 
here.«I must have fallen asleep after a brief bout of discourage- 
ment, such as I have not experienced for a long time. For why be 
discouraged, one of the thieves was saved, that is a generous 
percentage. I see the stick on the floor, not far from the bed. That 
is to. say I see part of it, as of all one sees. It might just as well 
be at the equator, or one of the poles. No, not quite, for perhaps 
I shall devise a way of retrieving it, I am so ingenious. All is 
not then yet quite irrevocably lost. In the meantime nothing is 
mine any more, according to my definition, if I remember rightly, 
except my exercise-book, my lead and the French pencil, assuming 
it really exists* I did well to stop my inventory, it was a happy 
thought. I feel less weak, perhaps they fed me while I slept. 
I see the pot, the one that is not full, it is lost to me too. 1 
shall doubtless be obliged to forget myself in the bed, as when I 
was a baby. At least I shall not be skelped. But enough about 
me. You would think I was relieved to be without my stick. I 
think I know how I might retrieve it. But something occurs to me. 
Are they depriving me of soup on purpose to help me die? One 
judges people too hastily. But in that case why feed me during 
my sleep? But there is no proof they have. But if they wished to 
help me would it not be more intelligent to give me poisoned 
soup, large quantities of poisoned soup? Perhaps they fear an 
autopsy. It is obvious they see a long way ahead. That reminds 
me that among my possessions I once had a little phial, un- 
labelled, containing pills. Laxatives? Sedatives? I forget. To turn 
to them for calm and merely obtain a diarrhoea, my, that would 
be annoying. In any case the question does not arise I am calm, 
insufficiently, I still lack a little calm. But enough about me. 
I’ll see if there is anything in my little idea, I mean how to 
retrieve my stick. The fact is I must be very weak. If there is, 
anything in it I mean, I shall try and get myself out of the bed, 
for a start. If not I do not know what I shall do. Go and sec how 
Macmann is getting on perhaps. I have always that resource. 



Why this need of activity? I am growing nervous. 

One day, much later, to judge by his appearance, Macmann 
came to again, once again, in a kind of asylum. At first he did 
not know it was one, being plunged within it, but he was told so 
as soon as he was in a condition to receive news. They *aid in 
substance. You are now in the House of Saint John of God, with 
the number one hundred and sixty-six. Fear nothing, you are 
among friends. Friends! Well well. Take no thought for anything, 
it is we shall think and act for you, from now forward. We like it. 
Do not thank us therefore. In addition to the nourishment care- 
fully calculated to keep you alive, and even well, you will receive, 
every Saturday, in honour of our patron, an imperial half-pint of 
porter and a plug of tobacco. Then followed instructions regarding 
his duties and prerogatives, for he was credited with a certain 
number of prerogatives, notwithstanding the bounties showered 
upon him. Stunned by this torrent of civility, for he had eluded 
charity all his days, Macmann did not immediately grasp that he 
was being spoken to. The room, or cell, in which he lay, was 
thronged with men and women dressed in white. They swarmed 
about his bed, those in the rear rising on tiptoe and craning 
their necks to get a better view of him. The speaker was a man, 
naturally, in the flower and the prime of life, his features stamped 
with mildness and severity in equal proportions, and he wore a 
scraggy beard no doubt intended to heighten his resemblance to 
the Messiah. To tell the truth, yet again, he did not so much read 
as improvise, or recite, to judge by the paper he held in his hand 
and on which from time to time he cast an anxious eye. He finally 
handed this paper to Macmann, together with the stump of an 
indelible pencil, the point of which he first wetted with his lips, 
and requested him to sign, adding thai it was a mere formality. 
And whei Macmann had obeyed, either because he was afraid 
of being punished if he refused or because he did not realize the 
seriousness of what he was doing, the other took back the paper, 
examined it and said, Mac what? It was then a woman’s voice, 
extraordinarily shrill and unpleasant, was heard to say, Mann, his 
name is Macmann. This woman was standing behind him, so 
that he could not see her, and in each hand she clutched a bar 



of the bed. Who are you? said the speaker. Someone replied. But 
it is Moll, can’t you see, her name is Moll. The speaker turned 
towards this informant, glared at him for a moment, then dropped 
his eyes. To be sure, he said, to be sure, I am out of sorts. He 
added? after a pause, Nice name, without its being quite clear 
whether this tribute was aimed at the nice name of Moll or at 
the nice name of Macmann. Don’t push, for Jesus sake! he said, 
irritably. Then, suddenly turning, he cried. What in God’s name 
are you all pushing for for Christ sake? And indeed the room 
was filling more and more, under the influx of fresh spectators. 
Personally I’m going, said the speaker. Then all retreated, in great 
jostle and disorder, each one striving to be first out through the 
door, with the sole exception of Moll, who did not stir. But when 
all were gone she went to the door and shut it, then came back 
and sat down om a chair by the bed. She was a little old woman, 
immoderately ill-favoured of both face and body. She seems 
called on to play a certain part in the remarkable events which, 
I hope, will enable me to make an end. The thin yellow arms 
contorted by some kind of bone deformation, the lips so broad 
and thick that they seemed to devour half the face, were at first 
sight her most revolting features. She wore by way of ear-rings 
two long ivory crucifixes which swayed wildly at the least 
movement of her head. 

I pause to record that I feel in extraordinary form. Delirium 

It seemed probable to Macmann that he was committed to 
the care and charge of this person. Correct. For it had been 
decreed, by those in authority, that one hundred and sixty-six 
was Moll’s, she having applied for him, formally. She brought 
him food (one large dish* daily, to first hot, then cold), emptied 
his chamber-pot every morning first thing and showed him how to 
wash himself, his face and hands every day, and the other parts 
of the body successively in the course 'of the week, Monday the 
feet, Tuesday the legs up to the knees, Wednesday the thighs, and 
so on, culminating on Sunday with the neck and ears, no, Sunday 
he rested from washing. She swept the floor, shook up the bed 
from time to time and seemed to take an extreme pleasure in 



polishing until they shone the frosted lights of the unique window, 
which was never opened. She informed Macmann, when he did 
something, if that thing was permitted or not, and similarly, when 
he remained inert, whether or not he was entitled to. Does this 
mean that she stayed with him all the time? Why no, and m> doubt 
she had other attentions to bestow elsewhere, and other instruc- 
tions to give. But in the early stages, before he had grown used to 
this new tide in his fortune, she assuredly left him alone as little as 
possible and even watched over him part of the night. How 
understanding she was, and how good-natured, appears from the 
following anecdote. One day, not long after his admission, 
Macmann realized he was wearing, instead of his usual accoutre- 
ment, a long loose smock of coarse linen, or possibly drugget. 
He at once began to clamour loudly for his clothes, including 
probably the contents of his pockets, for he cried. My things! 
My things!, over and over again, tossing about in the bed and 
beating the blanket with his palms. Then Moll sat down on the 
edge of the bed and distributed her hands as follows, one on top 
of one of Macmann’s, the other on his brow. She was so small 
that her feet did not reach to the floor. When he was a little 
calmer she told him that his clothes had certainly ceased to exist 
and could not therefore be returned to him. With regard to the 
objects found in the pockets, they had been assessed as quite 
worthless and fit only to be thrown away with the exception of a 
little silver knife-rest which he could have back at any time. But 
these declarations so distressed him that she hastened to add, with 
a laugh, that she was only joking and that in reality his clothes, 
cleaned, pressed, mended, strewn with mothballs and folded away 
in a cardboard box bearing his name and number, were as safe as 
if they had been received in deposit »by the Bank of England. 
But as Macmann continued vehemently to demand his things, as 
if he did ',ot understand a word of what she had just told him, 
she was obliged to invoke the regulations which tolerated on no 
account that an inmate should resume contact with the trappings 
of his derelict days until such time as he might be discharged. 
But as Macmann continued passionately to clamour for his 
things, and notably for his hat, she left him, saying he was not 



reasonable. And she came back a little later, holding with the tips 
of her fingers the hat in question, retrieved perhaps from the 
rubbish-heap at the end of the vegetable-garden, for to know 
everything takes too long, for it was fringed with manure and 
seemed to be rotting away. And what is more she suffered him to 
put it on, and even helped him to do so, helping him to sit up in 
the bed and arranging his pillows in such a way that he might 
remain propped up without fatigue. And she contemplated with 
tenderness the old bewildered face relaxing, and in its tod of 
hair the mouth trying to smile, and the little red eyes turning 
timidly towards her as if in gratitude or rolling towards the re- 
covered hat, and the hands raised to set it on more firmly and 
returning to rest trembling on the blanket. And at last a long 
look passed between them and Moll’s lips puffed and parted in a 
dreadful smile, which made Macmann’s eyes waver like those of 
an animal glared on by its master and compelled then finally to 
look away. End of anecdote. This must be the selfsame hat that 
was abandonend in the middle of the plain, its resemblance to it 
is so great, allowance being made for the additional wear and 
tear. Can it be then that it is not the same Macmann at all, after 
all, in spite of the great resemblance (for those who know the 
power of the passing years), both physical and otherwise. It is 
true the Macmanns are legion in the island and pride them- 
selves, what is more, with few exceptions, on having one and all, 
in the last analysis, sprung from the same illustrious ball. It is 
therefore inevitable they should resemble one another, now and 
then, to the point of being confused even in the minds of those 
who wish them well and would like nothing better than to tell 
between them. No matter, any old remains of flesh and spirit do, 
there is no sense in stalking people. So long as it is what is called 
a living being you can’t go wrong, you have the guilty one. For 
a long time he did not stir from his bed, not knowing if he could 
walk, or even stand, and fearing to rifii foul of the authorities, 
if he could. Let us then first consider this first phase of Macmann’s 
stay in the House of Saint John of God. We shall then pass on to 
the second, and even to the third, if necessary. 

A thousand little things to report, very strange, in view of my 



situation, if I interpret them correctly. But my notes have a 
curious tendency, as I realize at last, to annihilate all they purport 
to record. So I hasten to turn aside from this extraordinary heat, 
to jnention only it, which has seized on certain parts of my 
economy, I will not specify which. And to think I was expecting 
rather to grow cold, if anything! 

This first phase, that of the bed, was characterized by the 
evolution of the relationship between Macmann and his keeper. 
There sprang up gradually between them a kind of intimacy 
which, at a given moment, led them to lie together and copulate 
as best they could. For given their age and scant experience of 
carnal love, it was only natural they should not succeed, at the 
first shot, in giving each other the impression they wore made for 
each other. The spectacle was then offered of Macmann trying to 
bundle his sex into his partner’s like a pillow into a pillow-slip, 
folding it in two and stuffing it in with his fingers. But far from 
losing heart they warmed to their work. And though both were 
completely impotent they finally succeeded, summoning to their 
aid all the resources of the skin, the mucus and the imagination, 
in striking from their dry and feeble clips a kind of sombre 
gratification. So that Moll exclaimed, being (at that stage) the more 
expansive of the two. Oh would we had but met sixty years agQ! 
But on the long road to this what flutterings, alarms and bashful 
fumblings, of which only this, that they gave Macmann some 
insight into the meaning of the expression, Two is company. He 
then made unquestionable progress in the use of the spoken word 
and learnt in a short time to let fall, at the right time, the yesses, 
noes, mores and enoughs that keep love alive. It was also the 
occasion of his penetrating into the enchanted world of reading, 
thanks to the inflammatory letters which Moll brought and put 
into his hands. And the memories of school are so tenacious, for 
those who have been there, that he was soon able to dispense with 
the explanations of his correspondent and understand all unaided, 
holding the sheet of paper as far from his eyes as his arms per- 
mitted. While he read Moll held a little aloof, with downcast 
eyes, saying to herself. Now he’s at the part where, and a little 
later. Now he’s at the part where, and so remained until the 



rustle of the sheet going back into the envelope announced that 
he had finished. Then she turned eagerly towards him, in time to 
see him raise the letter to his lips or press it against his heart, 
another reminiscence of the fourth form. Then he gave it back 
to her «and she put it under his pillow with the others there 
already, arranged in chronological order and tied together with a 
favour. These letters did not much vary in form and tenor, which 
greatly facilitated matters for Macmann. Example. Sweetheart, 
Not one day goes by that I do not give thanks to God, on my 
bended knees, for having found you, before I die. For we shall 
soon die, you and I, that is obvious. That it may be at the same 
moment exactly is all I ask. In any case I have the key of the 
medicine cupboard. But let us profit first by this superb sundown, 
after the long day of storm. Are you not of this opinion? Sweet- 
heart! Ah would’ we had met but seventy years ago! No, all is 
for the best, we shall not have time to grow to loathe each other, 
to see our youth slip by, to recall with nausea the ancient 
rapture, to seek in the company of third parties, you on the one 
hand, I on the other, that which together we can no longer com- 
pass, in a word to get to know each other. One must look things 
in the face, must one not, sweet pet? When you hold me in your 
arms, and I you in mine, it naturally does not amount to much, 
compared to the transports of youth, and even middle age. But 
all is relative, let us bear that in mind, stags and hinds have their 
needs and we have ours. It is even astonishing that you manage so 
well, I can hardly get over it, what a chaste and sober life you 
must have led. I too, you must have noticed it. Consider moreover 
that the flesh is not the end-all and the be-all, especially at our 
age, and name me the lovers who can do with their eyes what we 
can do with ours, which will soon have seen all there is for them 
to see and have often great difficulty in remaining open, and with 
their tenderness, without the help of passion, what by this means 
alone we realize daily, when separated' by our respective obli- 
gations. Consider furthermore, since there is nothing more for us 
to hide, that I was never beautiful or well-proportioned, but ugly 
and even misshapen, to judge by the testimonies I have received. 
Papa notably used to say that people would run a mile from me. 



I have not forgotten the expression. And you, sweet, even when 
you were of an age to quicken the pulse of beauty, did you 
exhibit the other requisites? I doubt it. But with the passing of 
the years we have become scarcely less hideous than even our best 
favoured contemporaries and you, in particular, have kdpt your 
hair. And thanks to our having never served, never understood, we 
are not without freshness and innocence, it seems to me. Moral, 
for us at last it is the season of love, let us make the most of it, 
there are pears that only ripen in December. Do not fret about 
our methods, leave all that to me, and I warrant you we’ll 
surprise each other yet. With regard to tetty-beshy I must beg to 
differ, it is well worth persevering with, in my opinion. Follow 
my instructions, you’ll come back for more. For shame, you dirty 
old man! It’s all these bones that makes it awkward, that I grant 
you. Well, we must just accept ourselves as we a.e. And above all 
not fret, these are trifles. Let us think of the hours when, spent, 
we lie twined together in the dark, our hearts laboring as one, 
and listen to the wind saying what it is to be abroad, at night, in 
winter, and what it is to have been what we have been, and sink 
together, in an unhappiness that has no name. That is how we 
must look at things. So courage, my sweet old hairy Mac, and 
oyster kisses just where you think from your own Sucky Moll. 
P.S. I enquired about the oysters, T have hopes. Such was the 
rather rambling style of the declarations which Moll, despairing 
no doubt of giving vent to her feelings by the normal channels, 
addressed three or four times a week to Macmann, who never 
answered, I mean in writing, but manifested by every other 
means in his power how pleased he was to receive them. But 
towards the close of this idyll, that is to say when it was 
too late, he began to compose brief rimes of curious structure, to 
offer to his mistress, for he felt she was drifting away from him. 

Hairy Mac and Sucky Molly 
In the ending days and nights 
Of unending melancholy 
Love it is at last unites. 



Other example. 

To the lifelong promised land 
Of the nearest cemetery 
With his Sucky hand in hand 
Love it is at last leads Hairy. 

He had time to compose ten or twelve more or less in this vein, 
all remarkable for their exaltation of love regarded as a kind of 
lethal glue, a conception frequently to be met with in mystic 
texts. And it is extraordinary that Macmann should have suc- 
ceeded, in .so short a time and after such inauspicious beginnings, 
in elevating himself to a view of this altitude. And one can only 
speculate on what he might have achieved if he had become 
acquainted with true sexuality at a less advanced age. 

I am lost. Not a word. 

Inauspicious beginnings indeed, during which his feeling for 
Moll was frankly one of repugnance. Her lips in particular 
repelled him, those selfsame lips, or so little changed as to make 
no matter, that some months later he was to suck with grunts of 
pleasure, so that at the very sight of them he not only closed 
his eyes, but covered them with his hands for greater safety. She 
it was therefore who at this period exerted herself in tireless 
ardours, which may serve to explain why she seemed to weaken 
in the end and stand in her turn in need of stimulation. Unless 
it was simply a question of health. Which does not exclude a 
third hypothesis, namely that Moll, having finally decided that 
she had mistaken in Macmann and that he was not the man she 
had taken him for, sought a means of putting an end to their 
intercourse, but gently, in order not to give him a shock. Un- 
fortunately our concern here is not with Moll, who after all is 
only a female, but with Macmann, and not with the close of their 
relations, but rather with the beginning. Of the brief period of 
plentitude between these two extremes, t when between the warm- 
ing up of the one party and the cooling down of the other there 
was established a fleeting equality of temperature, no further 
mention will be made. For if it is indispensable to have in order 
not to have had and in order to have no longer, there is no 
obligation to expatiate upon it. But let us rather let events speak 



for themselves, that is more or less the right tone. Example. One 
day, just as Macmann was getting used to being loved, though 
without as yet responding as he was subsequently to do, he thrust 
Moll’s face away from his on the pretext of examining her ear- 
rings. But as she made to return to the charge he checked her 
again with the first words that came into his head, namely. Why 
two Christs?, implying that in his opinion one was more than 
sufficient. To which she made the absurd reply. Why two ears? 
But she Obtained his forgiveness a moment later, saying, with a 
smile (she smiled at the least thing), Besides they are the thieves, 
Christ is in my mouth. Then parting her jaws and pulling down 
her blobber-lip she discovered, breaking with its solitary fang the 
monotomy of the gums, a long yellow canine bared to the roots 
and carved, with the drill probably, to represent the celebrated 
sacrifice. With the forefinger of her free hand shj fingered it. It’s 
loose, she said, one of these fine mornings I’ll wake up and find 
I’ve swallowed it, perhaps I should have it out. She let go her lip, 
which sprang back into place with a smack. This incident made a 
strong impression on Macmann and Moll rose with a bound in 
his affections. And in the pleasure he was later to enjoy, when he 
put his tongue in her mouth and let it wander over her gums, this 
rotten crucifix had assuredly its part. But from these harmless 
aids what love is free? Sometimes it is an object, a garter I believe 
or a sweat-absorber for the armpit. And sometimes it is the simple 
image of a third party. A few words in conclusion on the decline 
of this liaison. No, I can’t. 

Weary with my weariness, white last moon, sole regret, not 
even. To be dead, before her, on her, with her, and turn, dead 
on dead, about poor mankind, and never have to die any more, 
from among the living. Not even, not even that. My moon was 
here below, far below, the little I was able to desire. And one 
day, so/n, soon, one earthlit night, beneath the earth, a dying 
being will say, like me, in the earthlight, Not even, not even that, 
and die, without having been able to find a regret. 

Moll. I’m going to kill her. She continued to look after Mac- 
mann, but she was no longer the same. When she had finished 
cleaning up she sat down on a chair, in the middle of the room. 



and remained without stirring. If he called her she went and 
perched on the edge of the bed and even submitted to be titillated. 
But it was obvious her thoughts were elsewhere and her only 
wish to return to her chair and resume the now familiar gesture 
of mastaging her stomach, slowly, weighing on it with her two 
hands. She was also beginning to smell. She had never smelt 
sweet, but between not smelling sweet and giving off the smell she 
was giving off now there is a gulf. She was also subject to fits 
of vomiting. Turning away, so that her lover should only see her 
convulsive' back, she vomited at length on the floor. And these 
dejections remained sometimes for hours where they fell, until 
such time as she had the strength to go and fetch what was 
needed to clean up the mess. Half a century younger she might 
have been taken for pregnant. At the same time her hair began 
to fall out in abundance and she confessed to Macmann that she 
did not dare comb it any more, for fear of making it fall out even 
faster. He said to himself with satisfaction. She tells me every- 
thing. But these were small things compared to the change in 
her complexion, now rapidly turning from yellow to saffron. The 
sight of her so diminished did not damp Macmann’s desire to 
take her, all stinking, yellow, bald and vomiting, in his arms. And 
he would certainly have done so had she not been opposed to it. 
One can understand him (her too). For when one has within reach 
the one and only love requited of a life so monstrously prolonged, 
it is natural one should wish to profit by it, before it is too late, 
and refuse to be deterred by feelings of squeamishness excusable 
in the faint-hearted, but which true love disdains. And though all 
pointed to Moll’s being out of sorts, Macmann could not help 
interpreting her attitude as a falling off of her affection for him. 
And perhaps indeed then; was something of that too. At all 
events the more she declined the more Macmann longed to crush 
her to his breast, which is at least sufficiently curious and un- 
usual to deserve of mention. And when 1 she turned and looked at 
him (and from time to time she did so still), with eyes in which 
he fancied he could read boundless regret and love, then a kind 
of frenzy seized upon him and he began to belabor with his fists 
his chest, his head and even the mattress, writhing and crying out. 



in the hope perhaps she would take pity on him and come and 
comfort him and dry his tears, as on the day when he had de- 
manded is hat. No, it was not that, it was without malice he cried, 
writhed and beat his breast, for she made no attempt to stop 
him and even left the room if it went on too long for he* liking. 
Then, all alone and unobserved, he continued to behave as if 
beside himself, which is proof positive, is it not, that he was 
disinterested, unless of course he suspected her of having stopped 
outside the door to listen. And when he grew calm again at last 
he mourned the long immunity he had lost, from shelter, charity 
and human tenderness. And he even carried his inconsequence 
to the length of wondering what right anyone had to take care 
of him. In a word most evil days, for Macmann. For Moll too 
probably, naturally, admitted. It was at this time she lost her 
tooth. It fell unaided from the socket, happily i» the daytime, so 
that she was able to recover it and put it away in a safe place. 
Macmann said to himself, when she told him. There was a time 
she would have made me a present of it, or at least shown 
it to me. But a little later he said, firstly. To have told me, when 
she need not have, is a mark of confidence and affection, and 
secondly. But I would have known in any case, when she opened 
her mouth to speak or smile, and finally. But she does not 
speak or smile any more. One morning early a man whom he 
had never seen came and told him that Moll was dead. There’s 
one out of the way at least. My name is Lemuel, he said, though 
my parents were probably Aryan, and it is in my charge you are 
from now on. Here is your porridge. Eat it while it is boiling. 

A last effort. Lemuel gave the impression of being slightly 
more stupid than malevolent, and yet his malevolence was con- 
siderable. When Macmann, more ?. n d more disturbed by his 
situation • apparently and what is more now capable of isolating 
and expressing well enough to be understood a little of the little 
that passed through his mind, when Macmann I say asked a 
question it was seldom he got an immediate answer. When asked 
for example to state whether Saint John of Gods was a private 
institution or run by the State, a hospice for the aged and infirm 
or a madhouse, if once in one might entertain the hope of one 



day getting out and, in the affirmative, by means of what steps, 
Lemuel remained for a long time plunged in thought, sometimes 
for as long as ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, motionless or 
if you prefer scratching his head or his armpit, as if such questions 
had neVer crossed his mind, or possibly thinking about something 
quite different. And if Macmann, growing impatient or perhaps 
feeling he had not made himself clear, ventured to try again, an 
imperious gesture bid him be silent. Such was this Lemuel, viewed 
from a certain angle. Or he cried, stamping the ground with 
indescribable nervousness, Let me think, you shite! It usually 
ended by his saying he did not know. But he was subject to al- 
most hypomaniacal fits of good humour. Then he would add. But 
I’ll enquire. And taking out a note-book as fat as a ship’s log he 
made note, murmuring, Private or state, mad or like me, how 
out, etc. Macmynn could then be sure he would never hear any 
more about it. May I get up? he said one day. Already in Moll’s 
lifetime he had expressed the wish to get up and go out into the 
fresh air, but timidly, as when one asks for the moon. And he had 
then been told that if he was good he might indeed be let up one 
day, and out into the pure plateau air, and that on that day, in 
the great hall where the staff assembled at dawn before entering 
on their duties, there would be seen pinned on the board a note 
thus conceived. Let one hundred and sixty-six get up and go out. 
For when it came to the regulations Moll was inflexible and their 
voice was stronger than the voice of love, in her heart, whenever 
they made themselves heard there simultaneously. The oysters for 
example, which the Board had refused in a note calling her 
attention to the article whereby they were prohibited, but which 
she could easily have smuggled in, Macmann never saw sight 
or sign of the oysters. BuV Lemuel was made of sterner stuff, in 
this connection, and far from being being a stickler for the statutes 
seemed to have little or no acquaintance with them. Indeed the 
question might have arisen, in the mind of one looking down 
upon the scene, as to whether he had all his wits about him. For 
when not rooted to the spot in a daze he was to be seen, with 
heavy, furious, reeling tread, stamping up and down for hours on 
end, gesticulating and ejaculating unintelligible words. Flayed 



alive by memory, his mind crawling with cobras, not daring to 
dream or think and powerless not to, his cries were of two kinds, 
those having no other cause than moral anguish and those, similar 
in every respect, by means of which he hoped to forestall same. 
Physical pain, on the contrary, seemed to help him greafly. And 
one day rolling up the leg of his trousers, he showed Macmann 
his shin covered with bruises, scars and abrasions. Then produc- 
ing smartly a hammer from an inner pocket he dealt himself, 
right in the middle of his ancient wounds, so violent a blow that 
he fell down backwards, or perhaps I should say forwards. But 
the part he struck most readily, with his hammer, was the head, 
and that is understandable, for it too is a bony part, and sensitive, 
and difficult to miss, and the seat of all the shit and misery, so 
you rain blows upon it, with more pleasure than on the leg for 
example, which never did you any harm, it’s <*aly human. Up! 
cried Macmann. Let me up! Lemuel came to a standstill. What? 
he roared. Up! cried Macmann. Let me up! Let me up! 

I have had a visit. Things were going too well. I jiad for- 
gotten myself, lost myself. I exaggerate. Things were not going 
too badly. I was elsewhere. Another was suffering. Then I had 
the visit. To bring me back to dying. If that amuses them. The 
fact is they don’t know, neither do I, but they think they know. 
An aeroplane passes, flying low, with a noise like thunder. It is 
a noise quite unlike thunder, one says thunder but one does not 
think of it, it is just a loud, fleeting noise, nothing more, unlike 
any other. It is certainly the first time I have heard it here, to my 
knowledge. But I have heard aeroplanes elsewhere and have even 
seen them in flight, I saw the very first in flight and then in the 
end the latest models, oh not the very latest, the very second- 
latest, the very antepenultimate. I wac. present at one of the first 
loopings. of the loop, so help me God. I was not afraid. It was 
above a racecourse, my ^mother held me by the hand. She kept 
saying. It’s a miracle, a miracle. Then I changed my mind. We were 
not often of the same mind. One day we were walking along the 
road, up a hill of extraordinary steepness, near home I imagine, my 
memory is full of steep hills, I get them confused. I said. The sky 
is further away than you think, is it not, mama? It was without 



malice, I was simply thinking of all the leagues that separated 
me from it. She replied, to me her son. It is precisely as far away 
as it appears to be. She was right. But at the time I was aghast. 
I can still see the spot, opposite Tyler’s gate. A market-gardener, 
he had*’ only one eye and wore side-whiskers. That’s the idea, 
rattle on. You could see the sea, the islands, the headlands, the 
isthmuses, the coast stretching away to north and south and the 
crooked moles of the harbour. We were on our way home from 
the butcher’s. My mother? Perhaps it is just another story, told 
me by some one who found it funny. The stories I was told, 
at one time! And all funny, not one not funny. In any case here 
I am back in the shit. The aeroplane, on the other hand, has just 
passed over at two hundred miles an hour perhaps. It’s a good 
speed, for the present day. I am with it in spirit, naturally. All 
the things I wa*/ always with in spirit. In body no. Not such a 
fool. Here is the programme anyhow, the end of the programme. 
They think they can confuse me and make me lose sight of my 
programmes. Proper cunts whoever they are. Here it is. Visit, 
various remarks, Macmann continued, agony recalled, Macmann 
continued, then mixture of Macmann and agony as long as pos- 
sible. It does not depend on me, my lead is not inexhaustible, 
nor my exercise-book, nor Macmann, nor myself in spite of 
appearances. That all may be wiped out at the same instant is 
all I ask, for the moment. The visit. I felt a violent blow on the 
head. He had perhaps been there for some time. One does not 
care to be kept waiting for ever, one draws attention to oneself 
as best one can, it’s human. I don’t doubt he gave me due warn- 
ing, before he hit me. I don’t know what he wanted. He’s gone 
now. What an idea, all the same, to hit me on the head. The light 
has been queer ever since, oh I insinuate nothing, dim and at the 
same time radiant, perhaps I have concussion. His mouth opened, 
his lips worked, but I heard nothing. He might just as well have 
said nothing. And yet I am not deaf, witness the aeroplane, if I 
hear nothing it is because there is nothing to hear. But perhaps 
life has dulled my irritability to specifically human sounds. I 
myself for example make no sound, well well, can’t go back on 
it now, no, not the tiniest. And yet I pant, cough, moan and gulp 



right up against my ear, I could swear to it. In other words I do 
not know to what I owe the honour. He seemed vexed. Must I 
describe him? Why not? He may be important. I had a clear 
view of him. Black suit of antiquated cut, or perhaps come back 
into the fashion, black tie, snow-white shirt, heavily Starched 
clown’s cuffs almost entirely covering the hands, oily black hair, 
a long, dismal, glabrous, floury face, sombre lacklustre eyes, 
medium height and build, block-hat pressed delicately to stomach 
with finger-tips, then without warning in a gesture of extraordinary 
suddenness and precision slapped on skull. A folding-rule, to- 
gether with a fin of white handkerchief, emerged from the breast 
pocket. I took him at first for the undertaker’s man, annoyed at 
having called prematurely. He remained some time, seven hours 
at least. Perhaps he hoped to have the satisfaction of seeing me 
expire before he left, that would probably havccsa\ed him time 
and trouble. For a moment I thought he was going to finish me 
off. What a hope, it would have been a crime. He must have left 
at six o’clock, his working day ended. The light is queer ever 
since. That it to say he went a first time, came back some hours 
later, then left for good. He must have been here from nine to 
twelve, then from two to six, now I have it. He kept looking at 
his watch, a turnip. Perhaps he will come back to-morrow. It was 
in the morning he hit me, about ten o’clock probably. In the 
afternoon he did not touch me, though I did not see him immed- 
iately, he was already in position when I saw him, standing beside 
the bed. I speak of morning and afternoon and of such and such 
an hour, if you simply must speak of people you simply must put 
yourself in their place, it is not difficult. The only thing you must 
never speak of is your happiness, I can think of nothing else for 
the moment. Better even not to think of it. Standing by the bed 
he watched me. Seeing my lips move, for I tried to speak, he 
stooped down to me. I had things to ask him, to give me my 
stick for example. He would have refused. Then with clasped 
hands and tears in my eyes I would have begged it of him as a 
favour. This humiliation has been denied to me thanks to my 
aphony. My voice has gone dead, the rest will follow. I could 
have written, on a page of my exercise-book, and shown to him. 



Please give me back my stick, or. Be so kind as to hand me up 
my stick. But I had hidden the exercise-book under the Blanket, 
so that he might not take it from me. I did so without thinking 
that he had been there for some time (otherwise he would not 
have struck me) watching me writing, for I must have been 
writing when he came, and that consequently he could easily have 
taken my exercise-book if he had wished, and without thinking 
either that he was watching me when I slipped it out of sight, and 
that consequently the only effect of my precaution was to draw 
his attention to the very object I wished to hide from him. There’s 
reasoning for you. For of all I ever had in this world all has been 
taken from me, except the exercise-book, so T cherish it, it’s 
human. The lead too, I w <t s forgetting the lead, but what is a 
lead, without paper? He must have said to himself, over his lunch. 
This afternoon JJU take his exercise-book from him, he seems to 
cherish it. But when he came back from his lunch the exercise- 
book was no longer in the place where he had seen me put it, 
he had not thought of that. His umbrella, have I mentioned his 
umbrella, the tightest rolled I ever saw? Shifting it every few 
minutes from one hand to the other he leaned his weight upon 
it, standing beside the bed. Then it bent. He made use of it to 
raise my blankets. It was with this umbrella that I thought he was 
going to kill me, with its long sharp point, he had only to plunge 
it in my heart. Wilful murder, people would have said. Perhaps 
he will come back to-morrow, better equipped, or with an 
assistant, now that he is familiar with the premises. But if he 
watched me I too watched him, I think we gazed at each other 
literally for hours, without winking. He probably imagined he 
could stare me down, because I am old and helpless. The poor 
bastard. It was so long sine# I had seen a biped of this description 
that I had my eyes out on stalks, as the saying is, for fear of not 
being able to credit them. I said to myself. One of these days 
they’ll start grazing the trees. And the face they have! I had 
forgotten. At a certain moment, incommoded by the smell prob- 
ably, he squeezed himself in between the bed and the wall, to 
try and open the window. He couldn’t. In the morning I didn’t 
take my eyes off him. But in the afternoon I slept a little. I don’t 



know what he did while I was asleep, rummaged in my possessions 
probably, with his umbrella, they are scattered all over the floor 
now. I thought for a moment he had been sent by the funeral 
people. Those who have enabled me to live till now will no doubt 
see to it that I am buried with a minimum of ceremony. Here lies 
Malone at last, with the dates to give a faint idea of the time he 
took to be excused and then to distinguish him from his name- 
sakes, numerous in the island and beyond the grave. Funny I 
never ran into one, to my knowledge, not one. There is still time. 
Here lies a ne’er-do-well, six feet under hell. But for a moment 
only, I mean half-an-hour at most. Then I tried him with other 
functions, all equally disappointing. Strange need to know who 
people are and what they do for a living and what they want 
with you. In spite of the ease with which he wore his black and 
manipulated his umbrella and his consummate mastery of the 
block-hat, I had for a time the impression he was disguised, but 
from what if I may say so, and as what? At a given moment, yet 
another, he took fright, for his breath came faster and he moved 
away from the bed. It was then I saw he was wearing brown 
boots, which gave me such a shock as no words can convey. They 
were copiously caked with fresh mud and I said to myself. 
Through what sloughs has he had to toil to reach me? I wonder 
if he was looking for something in particular, it would be so nice 
to know. I shall tear a page out of my exercise-book and re- 
produce upon it, from memory, what follows, and show it to 
him to-morrow, or to-day, or some other day, if he ever comes 
back. 1. Who are you? 2. What do you do, for a living? 3. Are 
you looking for something in particular? What else? 4. Why are 
you so cross? 5. Have I offended you? 6. Do you know anything 
about me? 7. It was wrong of you tq strike me. 8. Give me my 
stick. 9. Are you your own employer? 10. If not who sends you? 
11. Put back my things where you found them. 12. Why has my 
soup been stopped? 13. Vor what reason are my pots no longer 
emptied? 14. Do you think I shall last much longer? 15. May I 
ask you a favour? 16. Your conditions are mine. 17. Why brown 
boots and whence the mud? 18. You couldn’t by any chance let 
me have the butt of a pencil? 19. Number your answers. 20. 



Don’t go, I haven’t finished. Will one page suffice? There cannot 
be many left. I might as well ask for a rubber while I am about 
it. 21. Could you lend me an India rubber? When he had gone I 
said to myself. But surely I have seen him somewhere before. And 
the people I have seen have seen me too, I can guarantee that. 
But of whom may it not be said, I know that man? Drivel, drivel. 
And then at evening morning is so far away. I had stopped look- 
ing at him. I had got used to him. I was thinking of him, trying 
to understand, you can’t do that and look at the same time. I 
did not even see him go. Oh he did not vanish, after the fashion 
of a ghost, no, I heard him, the clank when he took out his watch, 
the satisfied thump of the umbrella on the floor, the rightabout, 
the rapid steps towards the door, its soft closing* and finally, I 
am sorry to say, a gay and lively whistle dying away. What have 
I omitted? LitjUtf things, nothings. They will come back to me 
later, make me see more clearly what has happened and say. 
Ah if I had only known then, now it is too late. Yes, little by 
little I shall see him as he just has been, or as he should have 
been for me to be able to say, yet again. Too late, too late. 
There’s feeling for you. Or he is perhaps just the first of a series 
of visitors, all different. They are going to relay one another, 
and they are numerous. To-morrow perhaps he will be wearing 
leggings, riding-breeches and a check cap, with a whip in his 
hand to make up for the umbrella and a horse-shoe in his button- 
hole. All the people I have ever caught a glimpse of, at close 
quarters or at a distance, may file past from now on, that is 
obvious. There may even be women and children, I have caught 
a glimpse of a few, they will all be armed with something to lean 
on and rummage in my things with, they will all give me a clout 
on the head to begin with and then spend the rest of the day 
glaring at me in anger and disgust. I shall have to revise my 
questionnaire so as to adapt it to all and sundry. Perhaps one, one 
day, unmindful of his instructions, wilf give me my stick. Or I 
might be able to catch one, a little girl for example, and half 
strangle her, three quarters, until she promises to give me my 
stick, give me soup, empty my pots, kiss me, fondle me, smile to 
me, give me my hat, stay with me, follow the hearse weeping into 



her handkerchief, that would be nice. I am such a good man, at 
bottom, such a good man, how is it nobody ever noticed it? A 
little girl would be into my barrow, she would undress before me, 
sleep beside me, have nobody but me, I would jam the bed against 
the door to prevent her running away, but then she wouy throw 
herself out of the window, when they got to know she was with 
me they would bring soup for two, I would teach her love and 
loathing, she would never forget me, I would die delighted, she 
would close my eyes and put a plug in my arse-hole, as per 
instructions. Easy, Malone, take it easy, you old whore. That 
reminds me, how long can one fast with impunity? The Lord 
Mayor of Cork lasted for ages, but he was young, and then he 
had political eonvictions, human ones too probably, just plain 
human convictions. And he allowed himself a sip of water from 
time to time, sweetened probably. Water, for pi|y’s sake! How is 
it I am not thirsty. There must be drinking going on- inside me, 
my secretions. Yes, let us talk a little about me, that will be a 
rest from all these blackguards. What light! Foretaste of paradise? 
My head. On fire, full of boiling oil. What shall I die of, in the 
end? A transport of blood to the brain? That would be the last 
straw. The pain is almost unbearable, upon my soul it is. In- 
candescent migraine. Death must take me for someone else. It’s 
the heart’s fault, as in the bosom of the match king, Schneider, 
Schroeder, I forget. It too is burning, with shame, of itself, of me, 
of them, shame of everything, except of beating apparently. It’s 
nothing, mere nervousness. And who knows, perhaps the first to 
fail will be my breath, after all. After each avowal, before and 
during, what swirling murmurs. The window says break of day, 
rack of tattered rainclouds stampeding. Have a nice time. Far 
from this molten gloom. Yes, my last gasps are not what they 
might be, the bellows won’t go down, the air is choking me, per- 
haps >'t is a little lacking in oxygen. Macmann pygmy beneath 
the g'cat black gesticulating pines gazes at the distant raging sea. 
The others are there too, or at their windows, like me, but on their 
feet, they must be able to move, or to be moved, no, not like me, 
they can’t do anything for anybody, clinging to the shivering pop- 
lars, or at their windows, listening. But perhaps I should finish 



with myself first, in so far naturally as such a thing is possible. 
The speed I am turning at now makes things difficult admittedly, 
but it probably can only increase, that is the thing to be con- 
sidered. Mem, add to the questionnaire, Tf you happen to have 
a match try and light it. How is it I heard nothing when he 
spoke to me and yet heard him leave, whistling? Perhaps he only 
feigned to speak to me, to try and make me think I had gone 
deaf. Do I hear anything at the present instant? Pet me see. No, 
the answer is no. Neither the wind, nor the sea, nor the paper, nor 
the air I exhale with such labour. But this innumerable babble, 
like a multitude whispering? I don’t understand. With my distant 
hand I count the pages that remain. They will do. This exercise- 
book is my life, this big chi'd’s exercise-book, it has taken me a 
long time to resign myself to that. And yet I shall not throw it 
away. For I want to put down in it, for the last time, those I have 
called to ruy nelp, but ill, so that they did not understand, so 
that they may cease with me. Now rest. 

Wearing over his long shirt a great striped cloak reaching 
down to* his ankles Macmann took the air in all weathers, from 
morning to night. And more than once they had been obliged to 
go out looking for him with lanterns, to bring him back to his 
cell, for he had remained deaf to the call of the bell and to the 
shouts and threats first of Lemuel, then of the other keepers. Then 
the keepers, in their white clothes, armed with sticks and lanterns, 
spread out from the buildings and beat the thickets, the copses 
and the fern-brakes, calling the fugitive by name and threatening 
him with the direst reprisals if he did not surrender immediately. 
But they finally remarked that he hid, when he did, always in 
the same place and that such a deployment of force was un- 
necessary. From then on it^was Lemuel who went out alone, in 
silence, as always when he knew what he had to do, straight to 
the bush in which Macmann had made his lair, whenever this 
was necessary. My God. And often the* two of them remained 
there for some time, in the bush, before going in, huddled to- 
gether, for the lair was small, saying nothing, perhaps listening to 
the noises of the night, the owls, the wind in the leaves, the sea 
when it was high enough to make its voice heard, and then the 



other night sounds that you cannot tell the meaning of. And it 
sometimes happened that Macmann, weary of not being alone 
went away alone and back into his cell and remained there until 
Lemuel rejoined him, much later, it was a genuine English park, 
though far from England, extravagantly unformal, luxuriant to 
the point of wildness, the trees at war with one another, and the 
bushes, and the wild flowers and weeds, all ravening for earth and 
light. One evening Macmann went back to his cell w’th a branch 
torn from a dead bramble, for use as a stick to support him as 
he walked. Then Lemuel took it from him and struck him with it 
over and over again, no, that won’t work, then Lemuel called a 
keeper by the name of Pat, a thorough brute though puny in 
appearance, and said to him, Pat will you look at that. Then 
Pat snatched the stick from Macmann who, seeing the turn things 
were taking, was holding it clutched tight in his. two hands, and 
struck him with it until Lemuel told him to stop, JHid even for 
some little time afterwards. All this without a word of explanation. 
So that a little later Macmann, having brought back from his 
walk a hyacinth he had torn up bulb and roots in the*hope of 
being able to keep it a little longer thus than if he had simply 
plucked it, was fiercely reprimanded by Lemuel who wrenched 
the pretty flower from his hands and threatened to hand him over 
to Jack again, no, to Pat again. Jack is a different one. And yet 
the fact of having half demolished the bush, a kind of laurel, in 
order to hide in it, had never brought upon his head the least 
reproof. This is not necessarily surprising, there was no proof 
against him. Had he been questioned about it he would naturally 
have told the truth for he did not suspect he had done anything 
wrong. But they must have assumed he would do nothing but 
lie and stoutly deny and that it was therefore useless to press him 
with questions. Besides no questions were ever asked in the House 
of Sain John of God, but stern measures were simply taken, or 
not token, according to tTie dictates of a peculiar logic. For, when 
you come to think of it, in virtue of what possible principle of 
justice can a flower in the hand fasten on the bearer the crime of 
having gathered it? Or was the mere fact of holding it for all to 
see in itself a felony, analogous to that of the receiver or fence? 



And if so would it not have been preferable to make this known, 
quite plainly and frankly, to all concerned, so that the sense of 
guilt, instead of merely following on the guilty act, might precede 
and accompany it as well? Problem. But nicely posed, I think, 
very nicely indeed. Thanks to the white cloak with its blue 
butcher stripes no confusion was possible between the Macmanns 
on the one hand and the Lemuels, Pats and Jacks on the other. 
The birds. Numerous and varied in the dense foliage they lived 
without fear all the year round, or in fear only of their congeners, 
and those which in summer or in winter flew olf to other climes 
came back the following winter or the following summer, roughly 
speaking. The air was filled with their voices, especially at dawn 
and dusk, and those which set off in flocks in the mV>rning, such as 
the crows and starlings, for distant pastures, came back the 
same evening gh joyous to the sanctuary, where their sentinels 
awaited them. The gulls were many in stormy weather which 
paused here on their flight inland. They wheeled long in the 
cruel air, screeching with anger, then settled in the grass or on the 
house-to'^s, mistrustful of the trees. But that is all beside the point, 
like so many things. All is pretext, Sapo and the birds, Moll, the 
peasants, those who in the towns seek one another out and fly 
from one another, my doubts which do not interest me, my 
situation, my possessions, pretext for not coming to the point, the 
abandoning, the raising of the arms and going down, without 
further splash, even though it may annoy the bathers. Yes, there 
is no good pretending, it is hard to leave everything. The horror- 
worn eyes linger abject on all they have beseeched so long, in a 
last prayer, the true prayer at last, the one that asks for nothing. 
And it is then a little breath of fulfilment revives the dead long- 
ings and a murmur is borij in the silent world, reproaching you 
affectionately with having despaired too late. The last word in the 
way of viaticum. Let us try it another way. The pure plateau. 

Try and go on. The pure plateau air. Yes, it was a plateau, 
Moll had not lied, or rather a great mound with gentle slopes. 
The entire top was occupied by the domain of Saint John and 
there the wind blew almost without ceasing, causing the stoutest 
trees to bend and groan, breaking the boughs, tossing the bushes. 



lashing the ferns to fury, flattening the grass and whirling leaves 
and flowers far away, I hope I have not forgotten anything. Good. 
A high wall encompassed it about, without however shutting off 
the view, unless you happened to be in its lee. How was this 
possible? Why thanks to the rising ground to be sure, culminating 
in a summit called the Rock, because of the rock that was on it. 
From here a fine view was to be obtained of the plain, the sea, 
the mountains, the smoke of the town and the buildings of the 
institution, bulking large in spite of their remoteness and all astir 
with little dots or flecks forever appearing and disappearing, in 
reality the keepers coming and going, perhaps mingled with I was 
going to say with the prisoners! For seen from this distance the 
striped cloak Bad no stripes, nor indeed any great resemblance 
to a cloak at all. So that one could only say, when the first shock 
of surprise was past. Those are men and woapifl, . you know, 
people, without being able to specify further. A streaih at long 
intervals bestrid — but to hell with all this fucking scenery. Where 
could it have risen anyway, tell me that. Underground perhaps. 
In a word a little Paradise for those who like their nature sloven. 
Macmann sometimes wondered what was lacking to his happiness. 
The right to be abroad in all weathers morning, noon and night, 
trees and bushes with outstretched branches to wrap him round 
and hide him, food and lodging such as they were free of all 
charge, superb views on every hand out over the lifelong enemy, 
a minimum of persecution and corporal punishment, the song of 
the birds, no human contact except with Lemuel, who went out 
of his way to avoid him, the faculties of memory and reflection 
stunned by the incessant walking and high wind, Moll dead, what 
more could he wish? I must be happy, he said, it is less pleasant 
than I should have thought. And he clyng closer and closer to the 
wall, but not too close, for it was guarded, seeking a way out into 
the deflation of having nobody and nothing, the wilds of the 
hunted, the scant bread and the scant shelter and the black joy 
of the solitary way, in helplessness and will-lessness, through all 
the beauty, the knowing and the loving. Which he stated by 
saying, for he was artless, I have had enough, without pausing a 
moment to reflect on what it was he had enough of or to com- 



pare it with what it had been he had had enough of, until he 
lost it, and would have enough of again, when he got it back 
again, and without suspecting that the thing so often felt to be 
excessive, and honoured by such a variety of names, was perhaps 
in reaftty always one and the same. But there was one reflecting 
in his place and setting down coldly the sign of equality where it 
was needed, as if that could make any difference. So he had only 
to go on gasping, in his artless way. Enough! Enough!, as he 
crept along by the wall under the cover of the bushes, searching 
for a breach through which he might slip out, under cover of 
night, or a place with footholds where he might climb over. But 
the wall was unbroken and smooth and topped uniterruptedly 
with broken glass, of a bottle green. But let us cast a glance at 
the main entrance, wide enough to admit two large vehicles 
abreast and flrnked by two charming lodges covered with 
Virginia creeper and occupied by large deserving families, to 
judge by the swarms of little brats playing nearby, pursuing one 
another with cries of joy, rage and grief. But space hemmed him 
in on every side and held him in its toils, with the multitude of 
other faintly stirring, faintly struggling things, such as the child- 
ren, the lodges and the gates, and like a sweat of things the 
moments streamed away in a great chaotic conflux of oozings and 
torrents, and the trapped huddled things changed and died each 
one according to its solitude. Beyond the gate, on the road, 
shapes passed that Macmann could not understand, because of 
the bars, because of all the trembling and raging behind him and 
beside him, because of the cries, the sky, the earth enjoining him to 
fall and his long blind life. A keeper came out of one of the lodges, 
in obedience to a telephone-call probably, all in white, a long 
black object in his hand, r key, and the children lined up along 
the drive. Suddenly there were women. All fell silent. The heavy 
gates swung open, driving the keeper before them. He backed 
away, then suddenly turned and fled to his doorstep. The road 
appeared, white with dust, bordered with dark masses, stretched 
a little way and ran up dead, against a narrow grey sky. Mac- 
mann let go the tree that hid him and turned back up the hill, 
not running, for he could hardly walk, but as fast as he could. 



bowed and stumbling, helping himself forward with the boles 
and boughs that offered. Little by little the haze formed again, 
and the sense of absence, and the captive things began to mur- 
mur again, each one to itself, and it was as if nothing had ever 
happened or would ever happen again. 

Others besides Macmann strayed from morning to night, 
stooped under the heavy cloak, in the rare glades, among the 
trees that hid the sky and in the high ferns where they looked 
like swimmers. They seldom came near to one another, because 
they were few and the park was vast. But when chance brought 
one or more together, near enough for them to realize it had done 
so, then they hastened to turn back or, without going to such 
extremes, simjfly aside, as if ashamed to be seen by their fellows. 
But sometimes they brushed against one another without seem- 
ing to notice it, their heads buried in the ample hflgd. 

Macmann carried with him and contemplated Froth time to 
time the photograph that Moll had given him, it was perhaps 
rather a daguerreotype. She was standing beside a chair and 
squeezing in her hands her long plaits. Traces were visible, be- 
hind her, of a kind of trellis with clambering flowers, roses 
probably, they sometimes like to clamber. When giving this keep- 
sake to Macmann she had said, I was fourteen, I well remember 
the day, a summer day, it was my birthday, afterwards they took 
me to see Punch and Judy. Macmann remembered those words. 
What he liked best in this picture was the chair, the seat of which 
seemed to be made of straw. Diligently Moll pressed her lips 
together, in order to hide her great buck-teeth. The roses must 
have been pretty, they must have scented the air. In the end 
Macmann tore up this photograph and threw the bits in the air, 
one windy day. Then they scattered, though all subjected to the 
same conditions, as though with alacrity. 

W’.on it rained, when it snowed 

On. One morning Lemuel, putting in the prescribed appear- 
ance in the great hall before setting out on his rounds, found 
pinned on the board a notice concerning him. Group Lemuel, 
excursion to the islands, weather permitting, with Lady Pedal, 
leaving one p.m. His colleagues observed him, sniggering and 



poking one another in the ribs. But they did not dare say any- 
thing. One woman however did pass a witty remark, to good 
effect. Lemeul was not liked, that was clear. But would he have 
wished to be, that is less clear. He initialled the notice and went 
away. «The sun was dragging itself up, dispatching on its way 
what perhaps would be, thanks to it, a glorious May or April 
day, April more likely, it is doubtless the Easter week-end, spent 
by Jesus in hell. And it may well have been in honour of this 
latter that Lady Pedal had organized, for the benefit of Lemuel’s 
group, this outing to the islands which was going to cost her 
dear, but she was well off and lived for doing good and bringing 
a little happiness into the lives of those less fortunate than herself, 
who was all right in her head and to whom hfe had always 
smiled or, as she had it herself, returned her smile, enlarged as in 
a convex mirror, or a concave, I forget. Taking advantage of the 
terrestrial atmosphere that dimmed its brightness Lemuel glared 
with loathing at the sun. He had reached his room, on the fourth 
or fifth floor, whence on countless occasions he could have thrown 
himself 'in perfect safety out of the window if he had been less 
weak-minded. The long silver carpet was in position, ending in a 
point, trembling across the calm repouss<5 sea. The room was 
small and absolutely empty, for Lemuel slept on the bare boards 
and even off them ate his lesser meals, now at one place, now at 
another. But what matter about Lemuel and his room? On. Lady 
Pedal was not the only one to take an interest in the inmates of 
Saint John of God’s, known pleasantly locally as the Johnny 
Goddams, or the Goddam Johnnies, not the only one to treat 
them on an average once every two years to excursions by land 
and sea through scenery renowned for its beauty or grandeur and 
even to entertainments on |he premises such as whole evenings of 
prestidigitation and ventriloquism in the moonlight on the terrace, 
no, but she was seconded by other ladies sharing her way of 
thinking and similarly blessed in means and leisure. But what 
matter about Lady Pedal? On. Carrying in one hand two buckets 
wedged the one within the other Lemuel proceeded to the vast 
kitchen, full of stir and bustle at that hour. Six excursion soups, 
he growled. What? said the cook. Six excursion soups! 



roared Lemuel, dashing his buckets against the oven, without 
however relinquishing the handles, for he retained enough presence 
of mind to dread the thought of having to stoop and pick them 
up again. The difference between an excursion soup and a 
common or house soup was simply this, that the latter was uni- 
formly liquid whereas the former contained a piece of fat bacon 
intended to keep up the strength of the excursionist until his 
return. When his bucket had been filled Lemuel withdrew to a 
secluded place, rolled up his sleeve to the elbow, fished up from 
the bottom of the bucket one after another the six pieces of bacon, 
his own and the five others, ate all the fat off them, sucked the 
rinds and threw them back in the soup. Strange when you come 
to think of it, but after all not so strange really, that they should 
have issued six extra or excursion soups at his mere demand, 
without requiring a written order. Th ' cells of five were far 
apart and so astutely disposed that Lemuel had never txen able to 
determine how best, that is to say with the minimum of fatigue 
and annoyance, to visit them in turn. In the first a young man, 
dead young, seated in an old rocking-chair, his shirt rolleo up and 
his hands on his thighs, would have seemed asleep had not his 
eyes been wide open. He never went out, unless commanded to 
do so, and then someone had to accompany him, in order to make 
him move forward. His chamber-pot was empty, whereas in his 
bowl the soup of the previous day had congealed. The reverse 
would have been less surprising. But Lemuel was used to this, so 
used that he had long since ceased to wonder on what this crea- 
ture fed. He emptied the bowl into his empty bucket and from 
his full bucket filled it with fresh soup. Then he went, a bucket in 
each hand, whereas up to now a single hand had been enough to 
carry the two buckets. Because of the excursion he locked the 
door behind him, an unnecessary precaution. The second cell, 
four or five hundred paces distant from the first, contained one 
whose only really striking features were his stature, his stiffness 
and his air of perpetually looking for something while at the same 
time wondering what that something could possibly be. Nothing 
in his person gave any indication of his age, whether he was 
marvellously well-preserved or on the contrary prematurely de- 



cayed. He was called the Saxon, though he was far from being 
any such thing. Without troubling to take off his shirt he had 
swathed himself in his two blankets as in swaddlings and over 
and above this rough and ready cocoon he wore his cloak. He 
gathered it shiveringly about him, with one hand, for he needed 
the other to help him in his investigation of all that aroused his 
suspicions. Good-morning, good -morning, good-morning, he said, 
with a strong foreign accent and darting fearful glances all about 
him, fucking awful business this, no, yes? Sudden starts instantly 
repressed dislodged him imperceptibly from his coign of max- 
imum vantage in the centre of the room. What! he exclaimed. His 
soup, examined drop by drop, had been transferred in its entirety 
to his pot. Anxiously he watched Lemuel performing his office, 
filling and emptying. Dreamt all night of that bloody man Quin 
again, he said .J t was his habit to go out from time to time, into 
the air. BCi after a few steps he would halt, totter, turn and hasten 
back into his cell, aghast at such depths of opacity. 

In the third a small thin man was pacing up and down, his 
cloak folded over his arm, an umbrella in his hand. Fine head of 
white flossy hair. He was asking himself questions in a low voice, 
reflecting, replying. The door had hardly opened when he made a 
dart to get out, for he spent his days ranging about the park in 
all directions. Without putting down his buckets Lemuel sent him 
flying with a toss of his shoulder. He lay where he had fallen, 
clutching his cloak and umbrella. Then, having recovered from 
his surprise, he began to cry. In the fourth a misshapen giant, 
bearded, occupied to the exclusion of all else in scratching him- 
self, intermittently. Sprawling on his pillow on the floor under 
the window, his head sunk, his mouth open, his legs wide apart, 
his knees raised, leaning w,ith one hand on the ground while the 
other came and went under his shirt, he awaited his soup. When 
his bowl had been filled he stopped scratching and stretched out 
his hand towards Lemuel, in the daily disappointed hope of being 
spared the trouble of getting up. He still loved the gloom and 
secrecy of the ferns, but never sought them out. The youth then, 
the Saxon, the thin one and the giant. I don’t know if they have 
changed, I don’t remember. May the others forgive me. In the 



fifth Macmann, half asleep. 

A few lines to remind me that I too subsist. He has not come 
back. How long ago is it now? I don’t know. Long. And I? 
Indubitably going, that’s all that matters. Whence this assurance? 
Try and think. I can’t. Grandiose suffering. I am swelling* What 
if I should burst? The ceiling rises and falls, rises and falls, 
rhythmically, as when I was a foetus. Also to be mentioned a 
noise of rushing water, phenomenon mutatis mutandis perhaps 
analogous to that of the mirage, in the desert. The window. I 
shall not see it again. Why? Because, to my grief, I cannot turn 
my head. Leaden light again, thick, eddying, riddled with little 
tunnels through to brightness, perhaps I should say air, sucking 
air. All is ready. Except me. I am being given, if I may venture 
the expression, birth to into death, such is my impression. The 
feet are clear already, of the great cunt of existejvpg. Favourable 
presentation I trust. My head will be the last to Cue?' Haul in 
your hands. I can’t. The render rent. My story ended I’ll be 
living yet. Promising lag. That is the end of me. I shall say I 
no more. 

Surrounded by his little flock which after nearly two hours of 
efforts he had succeeded in assembling, single-handed, Pat having 
refused to help him, Lemuel stood on the terrace waiting for Lady 
Pedal to arrive. Cords tethered by the ankles the thin one to the 
youth, the Saxon to the giant, and Lemuel held Macmann by the 
arm. Of the five it was Macmann, furious at having been shut up 
in his cell all morning and at a loss to understand what was 
wanted of him, whose resistance had been the most lively. He 
had notably refused to stir a step without his hat, with such 
fierce determination that Lemuel had finally consented to his 
keeping it on, provided it was hidden^ by the hood. In spite of 
this Macmann continued peevish and agitated, trying to free his 
arm and saying over and over again, Let me go! Let me go! The 
youth, tormented by the sun, was grabbing feebly at the thin 
one’s umbrella, saying, Pasol! Pasol! The thin one retaliated with 
petulant taps on his hands and arms. Naughty! he cried. Help! 
The giant had thrown his arms round the Saxon’s neck and hung 
there, his legs limp. The Saxon, tottering, too proud to collapse. 



demanded to be enlightened in tones without anger. Who is this 
shite anyhow, he said, any of you poor buggers happen to know? 
The director, or his delegate, also present, said dreamily from 
time to time. Now, now, please. They were alone on the great 
terrace. Can it be she fears a change of weather? said the 
director. He added, turning towards Lemuel, I am asking you a 
question. The sky was cloudless, the air still. Where is the beauti- 
ful young man with the Messiah beard? But in that case would 
she not have telephoned? said the director. 

The waggonette. Up on the box, beside the coachman. Lady 
Pedal. On one of the seats, set parallel to the wheels, Lemuel, 
Macmann, the Saxon and the giant. In the other, facing them 
the youth, the thin one and the two colossi dresseU in sailor-suits. 
As they passed through the gates the children cheered. A sudden 
descent, long and steep, sent them plunging towards the sea. 
Under tab "drag of the brakes the wheels slid more than they 
rolled and the stumbling horses reared against the thrust. Lady 
Pedal clung to the box, her bust flung back. She was a huge, big, 
tall, fat woman. Artificial daisies with brilliant yellow disks 
gushed from her broad-brimmed straw hat. At the same time 
behind the heavily spotted fall-veil her plump red face appeared 
to pullulate. The passengers, yielding with unanimous inertia to 
the tilt of the seats, sprawled pell-mell beneath the box. Sit back! 
cried Lady Pedal. Nobody stirred. What good would that do? 
said one of the sailors. None, said the other. Should they not all 
get down, said Lady Pedal to the coachman, and walk? When 
they were safely at the bottom of the hill at last Lady Pedal 
turned affably to her guests. Courage my hearties! she said, to 
show she was not superior. The waggonette jolted on with gather- 
ing speed. The giant lay op the boards, between the scats. Arc you 
the one in charge? said Lady Pedal. One of the sailors leaned 
towards Lemuel and said. She wants to know if you’re the one in 
charge. Fuck off, said Lemuel. The Saxon uttered a roar which 
Lady Pedal, on the qui vivc for the least sign of animation, was 
pleased to interpret as a manifestation of joy. That’s the spirit! 
she cried. Sing! Make the most of this glorious day! Banish your 
cares, for an hour or so! And she burst forth: 



Oh the jolly jolly spring 

Blue and sun and nests and flowers 

Alleluiah Christ is King 

Oh the happy happy hours 

Oh the jolly jolly — 

She broke off, discouraged. What is the matter with them? she 
said. The youth, less youthful now, doubled in two, his head 
swathed in the skirts of his cloak, seemed to be vomiting. His legs, 
monstrously bony and knock-kneed, were knocking together at 
the knees. The thin one, shivering, though in theory the Saxon is 
the shiverer, had resumed his dialogue. Motionless and concen- 
trated between the voices he reinforced these with passionate 
gestures amplified by the umbrella. And you? . . . Thanks . . . 
And you? . . . THANKS! . . . True . . . Left, . . . . Try . 
Back . . . Where? . . . On . . . No! . . . Right . '. .‘Try . . . 
Do you smell the sea, said Lady Pedal, I do. Marmu.m made a 
bid for freedom. In vain. Lemuel produced a hatchet from under 
his cloak and dealt himself a few smart blows on the skull, with 
the heel, for safety. Nice jaunt we’re having, said one of the 
sailors. Swell, said the other. Sun azure. Ernest, hand out the 
buns, said Lady Pedal. 

The boat. Room, as in the waggonette, for twice as many, 
three times, four times, at a pinch. A land receding, another ap- 
proaching, big and little islands. No sound save the oars, the 
rowlocks, the blue sea against the keel. In the stern-sheets Lady 
Pedal, sad. What beauty! she murmured. Alone, not understood, 
good, too good. Taking off her glove she trailed in the trans- 
parent water her sapphire-laden hand. Four oars, no rudder, the 
oars steer. My creatures, what of them? Nothing. They are there, 
each as best he can, as best he can be somewhere. Lemuel watches 
the mou i tains lising behind the steeples beyond the harbour, 
no thev are no more 

No, they are no more than hills, they raise themselves gently, 
faintly blue, out of the confused plain. It was there somewhere 
he was born, in a fine house, of loving parents. Their slopes 
are covered with ling and furze, its hot yellow bells, better 



known as gorse. The hammers of the stone-cutters ring all day 
like bells. 

The island. A last effort. The islet. The shore facing the open 
sea is jagged with creeks. One could live there, perhaps happy, 
if life was a possible thing, but nobody lives there. The deep 
water comes washing into its heart, between high walls of rock. 
One day nothing will remain of it but two islands, separated by 
a gulf, narrow at first, then wider and wider as the centuries slip 
by, two islands, two reefs. It is difficult to speak of man, under 
such conditions. Come, Ernest, said Lady Pedal, let us find a 
place to picnic. And you, Maurice, she added, stay by the dinghy. 
She called that a dinghy. The thin one chafed to run about, but 
the youth had thrown himrelf down in the shade of a rock, like 
Sordello, but less noble, for Sordello resembled a lion at rest, and 
clung to it with both hands. The poor creatures, said Lady Pedal, 
let then^ loose. Maurice made to obey. Keep off, said Lemuel. 
The giant had refused to leave the boat, so that the Saxon could 
not leave it either. Macmann was not free either, Lemuel held him 
by the waist, perhaps lovingly. Well, said Lady Pedal, you are the 
one in charge. She moved away with Ernest. Suddenly she turned 
and said. You know, on the island, there are Druid 

remains. She looked at them in turn. When we have had our 
tea, she said, we shall hunt for them, what do you say? Finally 
she moved away again, followed by Ernest carrying the hamper 
in his arms. When she had disappeared Lemuel released Mac- 
mann, went up behind Maurice who was sitting on a stone filling 
his pipe and killed him with the hatchet. We’re getting on, getting 
on. The youth and the giant took no notice. The thin one broke 
his umbrella against the rock, a curious gesture. The Saxon cried, 
bending forward and slaoping his thighs, Nice work, sir, nice 
work! A little later Ernest came back to fetch them. Going to 
meet him Lemuel killed him in his turn, in the same way as 
the other. It merely took a little longer. Two decent, quiet, 
harmless men, brothers-in-law into the bargain, there arc billions 
of such brutes. Macmann’s huge head. He has put his hat on 
again. The voice of Lady Pedal, calling. She appeared, joyous. 
Come along, she cried, all of you, before the tea gets cold. But at 



the sight of the late sailors she fainted, which caused her to fall. 
Smash her! screamed the Saxon. She had raised her veil and was 
holding in her hand a tiny sandwich. She must have broken some- 
thing in her fall, her hip perhaps, old ladies often break their hips, 
for no sooner had she recovered her senses than she bejjan to 
moan and groan, as if she were the only being on the face of the 
earth deserving of pity. When the sun had vanished, behind the 
hills, and the lights of the land began to glitter, Lemuel made 
Macmann and the two others get into the boat and got into it 
himself. Then they set out, all six, from the shore. 

Gurgles of outflow. 

This tangle of grey bodies is they. Silent, dim, perhaps cling- 
ing to one anerther, their heads buried in their cloaks, they lie 
together in a heap, in the night. They are far out in the bay. 
Lemuel has shipped his oars, the oars trail in the water. The night 
is strewn with absurd 

absurd lights, the stars, the beacons, the buoys, the lights of 
earth and in the hills the faint fires of the blazing gorsc. Mac- 
mann, my last, my possessions, I remember, he is there too, 
perhaps he sleeps. Lemuel 

Lemuel is in charge, he raises his hatchet on which the blood 
will never dry, but not to hit anyone, he will not hit anyone, he 
will not hit anyone any more, he will not touch anyone any more, 
either with it or with it or with it or with or 

or with it or with his hammer or with his stick or with his 
fist or in thought in dream I mean never he will never 
or with his pencil or with his stick or 
or light light I mean 
never there he will never 
never anything 
any nore 




Where now? Who now? When now? Unquestioning. 1, say I. 
Unbelieving. Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, 
going on, call that going, call that on. Can it be that one day, off 
it goes on, that one day I simply stayed in, in where, instead of 
going out, in the old way, out to spend day and night as far away 
as possible, it wasn’t far. Perhaps that is how it began. You think 
you are simply resting, the better to act when the time comes, or 
for no reason, and you soon find yourself powerless ever to do 
anything again. No matter how it happened. It, say it, not knowing 
what. Perhaps I simply assented at last to an old thing. But I did 
nothing. I seem to speak, it is not I, about me, it is not about 
me. These few general remarks to begin with. What am I to do, 
what shall I do, what should I do, in my situation, how proceed? 
By aporia pure and simple? Or by affirmations and negations in- 
validated as uttered, or sooner or later? Generally speaking. There 
must be other shifts. Otherwise it would be quite hopeless. But 
it is quite hopeless. I should mention before going any further, any 
further on, that I say aporia without knowing what it means. Can 
one be ephectic otherwise than unawares? I don’t know. With 



the yesses and noes it is different, they will come back to me as 
I go along and how, like a bird, to shit on them all without 
exception. The fact would seem to be, if in my situation one may 
speak of facts, not only that I shall have to speak of things of 
whictt I cannot speak, but also, which is even more interesting, but 
also that I, which is if possible even more interesting, that I shall 
have to, I forget, no matter. And at the same time 1 am obliged 
to speak. I shall never be silent. Never. 

I shall not be alone, in the beginning. I am of course alone. 
Alone. That is soon said. Things have to be soon said. And how 
can one be sure, in such darkness? I shall have company. In the 
beginning. A few puppets. Then I’ll scatter them, to the winds, if 
I can. And things, what is the correct attitude to adopt towards 
things? And, to begin with, are they necessary? What a question. 
But I have few illusions, things are to be expected. The best is 
not to decide anything, in this connection, in advance. If a thing 
turns up, for some reason or another, take it into consideration. 
Where there are people, it is said, there are things. Does this mean 
that when you admit the former you must also admit the latter? 
Time will tell. The thing to avoid, I don’t know why, is the spirit 
of system. People with things, people without things, things with- 
out people, what does it matter, I flatter myself it will not take 
me long to scatter them, whenever I choose, to the winds. I don’t 
see how. The best would be not to begin. But I have to begin. 
That is to say I have to go on. Perhaps in the end I shall smother 
in a throng. Incessant comings and goings, the crush and bustle of 
a bargain sale. No, no danger. Of that. 

Malone is there. Of his mortal liveliness little trace remains. 
He passes before me at doubtless regular intervals, unless it is I 
who pass before him. No, once and for all, I do not move. He 
passes, motionless. But there will not be much on the subject of 
Malone, from whom there is nothing further to be hoped. Person- 
ally I do not intend to be bored. It was while watching him pass 
that I wondered if we cast a shadow. Impossible to say He passes 
close by me, a few feet away, slowly, always in the same direction. 
I am almost sure it is he. The brimless hat seems to me conclusive. 
With his two hands he props up his jaw. He passes without a word. 



Perhaps he does not see roe. One of these days I’ll challenge him. 
I’ll say, I don’t know. I’ll say something. I’ll think of something 
when the time comes. There are no days here, but I use the ex- 
pression. I see him from the waist up, he stops at the waist, far 
as I am concerned. The trunk is erect. But I do not know whether 
he is on his feet or on his knees. He might also be seated. I see 
him in profile. Sometimes I wonder if it is not Molloy. Perhaps it 
is Molloy, wearing Malone’s hat. But it is more reasonable to 
suppose it is Malone, wearing his own hat. Oh look, there is the 
first thing, Malone’s hat. I sec no other clothes. Perhaps Molloy is 
not here at all. Could he be, without my knowledge? The place is 
no doubt vast. Dim intermittent lights suggest a kind of distance. 
To tell the truth I believe they are all here, at least from Murphy 
on, I believe we are all here, but so far I have only seen Malone. 
Another hypothesis, they were here, but are here no longry, I shall 
examine it after my fashion. Are there other pits, deeper down? 
To which one accedes by mine? Stupid obsession with depth. Are 
there other places set aside for us and this one where I an;, with 
Malone, merely their narthex? I thought I had done with prelimin- 
aries. No, no, we have all been here forever, we shall all be here 
forever, I know it. 

No more questions. Is not this rather the place where one 
finishes vanishing? Will the day come when Malone will pass 
before me no more? Will the day come when Malone will pass 
before the spot where I was? Will the day come when another will 
pass before me, before the spot where I was? I have no opinion, 
on these matters. 

Were I not devoid of feeling his beard would fill me with pity. 
It hangs down, on either side of his chin, in two twists of unequal 
length. Was there a time when I too rwolved thus? No, I have 
always been sitting here, at this selfsame spot, my hands on my 
knees, ga/mg before me like a great horn-owl in an aviary. The 
tears stream down my cheeks from my unblinking eyes. What makes 
me weep so? From time to time. There is nothing saddening here. 
Perhaps it is liquefied brain. Past happiness in any case has clean 
gone from my memory, assuming it was ever there. If I accom- 
plish other natural functions it is unawares. Nothing ever troubles 



me. And yet I am troubled. Nothing has ever changed since I have 
been here. But I dare not infer from this that nothing ever will 
change. Let us try and see where these considerations lead. I have 
been here, ever since I began to be, my appearances elsewhere 
having been put in by other parties. All has proceeded, all this 
time, in the utmost calm, the most perfect order, apart from one or 
two manifestations the meaning of which escapes me. No, it is not 
that their meaning escapes me, my own escapes me just as much. 
Here all things, no, I shall not say it, being unable to. I owe my 
existence to no one, these faint fires are not of those that illuminate 
or bum. Going nowhere, coming from nowhere, Malone passes. 
These notions of forbears, of houses where lamp^ are lit at night, 
and other such, where do they come to me from? And all these 
questions I ask myself. It is not in a spirit of curiosity. I cannot 
be siler t ‘’ About myself I need know nothing. Here all is clear. 
No, all is not clear. But the discourse must go on. So one invents 
obscurities. Rhetoric. These lights for instance, which I do not 
require to mean anything, what is there so strange about them, so 
wrong? Is it their irregularity, their instability, their shining strong 
one minute and weak the next, but never beyond the power of one 
or two candles? Malone appears and disappears with the punc- 
tuality of clockwork, always at the same remove, the same velocity, 
in the same direction, the same attitude. But the play of the lights 
is truly unpredictable. It is only fair to say that to eyes less knowing 
than mine they would probably pass unseen. But even to mine 
do they not sometimes do so? They are perhaps unwavering and 
fixed and my fitful perceiving the cause of their inconstancy. I 
hope I may have occasion to revert to this question. But I shall 
remark without further delay, in order to be sure of doing so, 
that I am relying on those lights, as indeed on all other similar 
sources of credible perplexity, to help me continue and perhaps 
even conclude. I resume, having no alternative. Where was I? Ah 
yes, from the unexceptionable order which has prevailed here up 
to date may I infer that such will always be the case? I may of 
course. But the mere fact of asking myself such a question gives 
me to reflect. It is in vain I tell myself that its only purpose is to 
stimulate the lagging discourse, this excellent explanation does not 



satisfy me. Can it be I am the prey of a genuine preoccupation, of 
a need to know as one might say? I don’t know. I’ll try it another 
way. If one day a change were to take place, resulting from a prin- 
ciple of disorder already present, or on its way, what then? That 
would seem to depend on the nature of the change. No, here all 
change would be fatal and land me back, there and then, in all the 
fun of the fair. I’ll try it another way. Has nothing really changed 
since I have been here? No, frankly, hand on heart, wait a second, 
no, nothing, to my knowledge. But, as I have said, the place may 
well be vast, as it may well measure twelve feet in diameter. It 
comes to the same thing, as far as discerning its limits is concerned. 
I like to think ^occupy the centre, but nothing is less certain. In a 
sense I would be better off at the circumference, since my eyes are 
always fixed in the same direction. But I am certainly not at the 
circumference. For if I were it would follow that Molloy. ..wheeling 
about me as he does, would issue from the enceinte at every revo- 
lution, which is manifestly impossible. But does he in fact wheel, 
does he not perhaps simply pass before me in a straight line? 
No, he wheels, I feel it, and about me, like a planet about its sun. 
And if he made a noise, as he goes, I would hear him all the time, 
on my right hand, behind my back, on my left hand, before seeing 
him again. But he makes none, for I am not deaf, of that I am 
convinced, that is to say half-convinced. From centre to circum- 
ference in any case it is a far cry and I may well be situated some- 
where between the two. It is equally possible, I do not deny it, that 
I too am in perpetual motion, accompanied by Malone, as the 
earth by its moon. In which case there would be no further grounds 
for my complaining about the disorder of the lights, this being due 
simply to my insistence on regarding them as always the same 
lights and viewed always from the same point. All is possible, 
or almost. But the best is to think of myself as fixed and at the 
centre o' this place, whatever its shape and extent may be. This 
is also probably the most pleasing to me. In a word, no change 
apparently since I have been here, disorder of the lights perhaps 
an illusion, all change to be feared, incomprehensible uneasiness. 

That I am not stone deaf is shown by the sounds that reach 
me. For though the silence here is almost unbroken, it is not com- 



pletely so. I remember the first sound heard in this place, I have 
often heard it since. For I am obliged to assign a beginning to my 
residence here, if only for the sake of clarity. Hell itself, although 
eternal, dates from the revolt of Lucifer. It is therefore permissible, 
in the light of this distant analogy, to think of myself as being 
here forever, but not as having been here forever. This will 
greatly help me in my relation. Memory notably, which I did not 
think myself entitled to draw upon, will have its word to say, if 
necessary. This represents at least a thousand words I was not 
counting- on. I may well be glad of them. So after a long period of 
immaculate silence a feeble cry was heard, by me. I do not know 
if Malone heard it too. I was surprised, the word is not too strong. 
After so long a silence a little cry, stifled outright. What kind of 
creature uttered it and, if it is the same, still does, from time to 
time? Impossible to say. Not a human one in any case, there are 
no human creatures here, or if there are they have done with 
crying. Is Malone the culprit? Am I? Is it not perhaps a simple 
little fert, they can be rending? Deplorable mania, when something 
happens, to inquire what. If only I were not obliged to manifest. 
And why speak of a cry? Perhaps it is something breaking, some 
two things colliding. There are sounds here, from time to time, 
let that suffice. This cry to begin with, since it was the first. And 
others, rather different. I am getting to know them. I do not know 
them all. A man may die at the age of seventy without ever hav- 
ing had the possibility of seeing Halley’s comet. 

It would help me, since to me too I must attribute a begin- 
ning, if I could relate it to that of my abode. Did I wait somewhere 
for this place to be ready to receive me? Or did it wait for me to 
come and people it? By far the better of these hypotheses, from 
the point of view of usefulness, is the former, and I shall often 
have occasion to fall back on it. But both are distasteful. I shall 
say therefore that our beginnings coincide, that this place was 
made for me, and I for it, at the same instant. And the sounds 
I do not yet know have not yet made themselves heard. But they 
will change nothing. The cry changed nothing, even the first time. 
And my surprise? I must have been expecting it. 

It is no doubt time I gave a companion to Malone. But first 



I shall tell of an incident that has only occurred once, so far. I 
await its recurrence without impatience. Two shapes then, oblong 
like man, entered into collision before me. They fell and I saw 
them no more. 1 naturally thought of the pseudocouple Mercier- 
Camier. The next time they enter the field, moving slowly towards 
each other, I shall know they are going to collide, fall and dis- 
appear, and this will perhaps enable me to observe them better. 
Wrong. I continue to see Malone as darkly as the first time. My 
eyes being fixed always in the same direction I can only see, I 
shall not say clearly, but as clearly as the visibility "permits, that 
which takes place immediately in front of me, that is to say, in 
the case before, us, the collision, followed by the fall and disap- 
pearance. Of their approach I shall never obtain other than a con- 
fused glimpse, out of the corner of the eye, and what an eye. For 
their path too must be a curve, two curves, and meeting I need 
not say close beside me. For the visibility, unless it be the state 
of my eyesight, only permits me to see what is close beside me. 
I may add that my seat would appear to be somewhat elevated, 
in relation to the surrounding ground, if ground is what it is. 
Perhaps it is water or some other liquid. With the result that, in 
order to obtain the optimum view of what takes place in front of 
me, I should have to lower my eyes a little. But I lower my eyes 
no more. In a word, I only see what appears immediately in front 
of me, I only see what appears close beside me, what I best see 
I see ill. 

Why did I have myself represented in the midst of men, the 
light of day? It seems to me it was none of my doing. We won’t 
go into that now. I can see them still, my delegates. The things 
they have told me! About men, the light of day. I refused to 
believe them. But some of it has stuck* But when, through what 
channels, did I communicate with these gentlemen? Did they 
intrude ca me here? No no one has ever intruded on me here. 
Elsewhere then. But I have never been elswhere. But it can only 
have been from them I learnt what I know about men and the ways 
they have of putting up with it. It does not amount to much. I 
could have dispensed with it. I don’t say it was all to no purpose. 
I’ll make use of it, if I’m driven to it. It won’t be the first time. 



What puzzles me is the thought of being indebted for this informa- 
tion to persons with whom I can never have been in contact. Can 
it be innate knowledge? Like that of good and evil. This seems 
improbable to me. Innate knowledge of my mother, for example, 
is that conceivable? Not for me. She was one of their favourite 
subjects, of conversation. They also gave me the low-down on God. 
They told me I depended on him, in the last analysis. They had it 
on the reliable authority of his agents at Bally I forget what, this 
being the place, according to them, where the inestimable gift of 
life had been rammed down my gullet. But what they were most 
determined for me to swallow was my fellow-creatures. In this they 
were without mercy. I remember little or nothing pf these lectures. 
I cannot have understood a great deal. But I seem to have retained 
certain descriptions, in spite of myself. They gave me courses on 
love, on intelligence, most precious, most precious. They also taught 
me to count, and even to reason. Some of this rubbish has come 
in handy on occasions, I don’t deny it, on occasions which would 
never have arisen if they had left me in peace. I use it still, to 
scratch my arse with. Low types they must have been, their pockets 
full of poison and antidote. Perhaps all this instruction was by 
correspondence. And yet I seem to know their faces. From photo- 
graphs perhaps. When did all this nonsense stop? And has it 
stopped? A few last questions. Is it merely a lull? There were 
four or five of them at me, they called that presenting their report. 
One in particular, Basil I think he was called, filled me with hatred. 
Without opening his mouth, fastening on me his eyes like cinders 
with all their seeing, he changed me a little more each time into 
what he wanted me to be. Is he still glaring at me, from the shadows? 
Is he still usurping my name, the one they foisted on me, up there 
in their world, patiently, £rom season to season? No no, here I am 
in safety, amusing myself wondering who can have dealt me these 
insignificant wounds. 

The other advances full upon me. He emerges as from heavy 
hangings, advances a few steps, looks at me, then backs away. He 
is stooping and seems to be dragging invisible burdens. What I 
see best is his hat. The crown is all worn through, like the sole 
of an old boot, giving vent to a straggle of grey hairs. He raises 



his eyes and T feel the long imploring gaze, as if I could do some- 
thing for him. Another impression, no doubt equally false, he 
brings me presents and dare not give them. He takes them away 
again, or he lets them fall, and they vanish. He does n<yt come 
often, I cannot be more precise, but regularly assuredly. His visit 
has never coincided, up to now, with the transit of Malone. But 
perhaps some day it will. That would not necessarily be a violation 
of the order prevailing here. For if I can work out to within a few 
inches the orbit of Malone, assuming perhaps erroneously that he 
passes before me at a distance of say three feet, with*regard to the 
other’s career I must remain in the dark. For I am incapable not 
only of measuring time, which in itself is sufficient to vitiate all 
calculation in this connection, but also of comparing their res- 
pective velocities. So I cannot tell if I shall ever have the good 
fortune to see the two of them at once. But I am inclined, to think 
I shall. For if I were never to see the two of them at once, then 
it would follow, or should follow, that between their respective 
appearances the interval never varies. No, wrong. For the interval 
may vary considerably, and indeed it seems to me it does, without 
ever being abolished. Nevertheless I am inclined to think, because 
of this erratic interval, that my two visitors may some day meet 
before my eyes, collide and perhaps even knock each other down. 
I have said that all things here recur sooner or later, no, I was 
going to say it, then thought better of it. But is it not possible that 
this does not apply to encounters? The only encounter I ever wit- 
nessed, a long time ago now, has never yet been re-enacted. It was 
perhaps the end of something. And I shall perhaps be delivered 
of Malone and the other, not that they disturb me, the day I see 
the two of them at one and the same time, that is to say in collision. 
Unfortunately they are not the only disturbers of my peace. Others 
come towards me, pass before me, wheel about me. And no doubt 
others st.11, invisible so far. I repeat they do not disturb me. But 
in the long run it might become wearisome. I don’t see how. But 
the possibility must be taken into account. One starts things mov- 
ing without a thought of how to stop them. In order to speak. One 
starts speaking as if it were possible to stop at will. It is better so. 
The search for the means to put an end to things, an end to speech* 



is what enables the discourse to continue. No, I must not try to 
think, simply utter. Method or no method I shall have to banish 
them in the end, the beings, things, shapes, sounds and lights with 
which jny haste to speak has encumbered this place. In the frenzy 
of utterance the concern with truth. Hence the interest of a pos- 
sible deliverance by means of encounter. But not so fast. First dirty, 
then make clean. 

Perhaps it is time I paid a little attention to myself, for a 
change. I shall be reduced to it sooner or later. At first sight it 
seems impossible. Me, utter me, in the same foul breath as my 
creatures? Say of me that I see this, feel that, fear, hope, know 
and do not know? Yes, I will say it, and of me alpne. Impassive, 
still and mute, Malone revolves, a stranger forever to my infirmities, 
one who is not as I can never not be. I am motionless in vain, he 
is the god And the other? I have assigned him eyes that implore 
me, offerings for me, need of succour. He does not look at me, does 
not know of me, wants for nothing. I alone am man and all the 
rest divine. 

Air, the air, is there anything to be squeezed from that old 
chestnut? Close to me it is grey, dimly transparent, and beyond 
that charmed circle deepens and spreads its fine impenetrable veils. 
Is it I who cast the faint light that enables me to see what goes on 
under my nose? There is nothing to be gained, for the moment, 
by supposing so. There is no night so deep, so I have heard tell, 
that it may not be pierced in the end, with the help of no other 
light than that of the blackened sky, or of the earth itself. 
Nothing nocturnal here. This grey, first murky, then frankly 
opaque, is luminous none the less. But may not this screen which 
my eyes probe in vain, and see as denser air, in reality be the en- 
closure wall, as compact a« lead? To elucidate this point I would 
need a stick or pole, and the means of plying it, the former being 
of little avail without the latter, and vise versa. I could also do, 
incidentally, with future and conditional participles. Then I would 
dart it, like a javelin, straight before me and know, by the sound 
made, whether that which hems me round, and blots out my world, 
is the old void, or a plenum. Or else, without letting it go, I would 
wield it like a sword and thrust it through empty air, or against 



the barrier. But the days of sticks are over, here I can count 
on my body alone, my body incapable of the smallest movement 
and whose very eyes can no longer close as they once could, ac- 
cording to Basil and his crew, to rest me from seeing, to rest me 
from waking, to darken me to sleep, and no longer look away, or 
down, or up open to heaven, but must remain forever fixed and 
staring on the narrow space before them where there is nothing to 
be seen, 99 per cent of the time. They must be as red as live coals. 
I sometimes wonder if the two retinae are not facing each other. 
And come to think of it this grey is shot with rose, likg the plumage 
of certain birds, among which I seem to remember the cockatoo. 

Whether all grow black, or all grow bright, or all remain grey, 
it is grey we ndfed, to begin with, because of what it is, and of what 
it can do, made of bright and black, able to shed the former, or the 
latter, and be the latter or the former alone. But perhaps I am the 
prey, on the subject of grey, in the grey, to delusions. 

How, in such conditions, can I write, to consider only the 
manual aspect of that bitter folly? I don’t know. I could know. 
But I shall not know. Not this time. It is I who write, who cannot 
raise my hand from my knee. It is I who think, just enough to 
write, whose head is far. I am Matthew and I am the angel, I who 
came before the cross, before the sinning, came into the world, came 

I add this, to be on the safe side. These things I say, and 
shall say, if I can, are no longer, or are not yet, or never were, or 
never will be, or if they were, if they are, if they will be, were not 
here, are not here, will not be here, but elsewhere. But I am here. 
So I am obliged to add this. I who am here, who cannot speak, 
cannot think, and who must speak, and therefore perhaps think a 
little, cannot in relation only to me who am here, to here where 
I am, but can a little, sufficiently, I don’t know how, unimportant, 
in relatiqn to me who was elsewhere, who shall be elsewhere, and 
to those places where I Was, where I shall be. But I have never 
been elsewhere, however uncertain the future. And the simplest 
therefore is to say that what I say, what I shall say, if I can, relates 
to the place where I am, to me who am there, in spite of my 
inability to think of these, or to speak of them, because of the 



compulsion I am under to speak of them, and therefore perhaps 
think of them a little. Another thing. What I say, what I may say, 
on this subject, the subject of me and my abode, has already been 
said since, having always been here, I am here still. At last a piece 
of reasoning that pleases me, and worthy of my situation. So I 
have no cause for anxiety. And yet I am anxious. So I am not 
heading for disaster, I am not heading anywhere, my adventures 
are over, my say said, I call that my adventures. And yet I feel 
not. And indeed I greatly fear, since my speech can only be of 
me and here that I am once more engaged in putting an end to 
both. Which would not matter, far from it, but for the obligation, 
once rid of them, to begin again, to start again from nowhere, 
from no one and from nothing and win to me agiiin, to me here 
again, by fresh ways to be sure, or by the ancient ways, unrecog- 
nisable at each fresh faring. Whence a certain confusion in the 
exordia' tong enough to situate the condemned and prepare him 
for execution. And yet I do not despair of one day sparing me, 
without going silent. And that day, I don’t know why, I shall be 
able to go silent, and make an end, I know it. Yes, the hope is 
there, once again, of not making me, not losing me, of staying 
here, where I said I have always been, but I had to say something 
quick, of ending here, it would be wonderful. But is it to be wished? 
Yes, it is to be wished, to end would be wonderful, no matter 
who I am, no matter where I am. 

I hope this preamble will soon come to an end and the state- 
ment begin that will dispose of me. Unfortunately I am afraid, as 
always, of going on. For to go on means going from here, means 
finding me, losing me, vanishing and beginning again, a stranger 
first, then little by little the same as always, in another place, where 
I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know nothing, 
being incapable of seeing, moving, thinking, speaking, but of which 
little by little, in spite of these handicaps, I shall begin to know 
something, just enough for it to turn oitl to be the same place as 
always, the same which seems made for me and does not want 
me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, 
which spews me out or swallows me up. I’ll never know, which is 
perhaps merely the inside of my distant skull where once I wan- 



dered, now am fixed, lost for tininess, or straining against the walls, 
with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever murmuring 
my old stories, my old story, as if it were the first time. So there 
is nothing to be afraid of. And yet I am afraid, afraid of what my 
words will do to me, to my refuge, yet again. Is there really nothing 
new to try? I mentioned my hope, but it is not serious. If I could 
speak and yet say nothing, really nothing? Then I might escape 
being gnawed to death as by an old satiated rat, and my little 
tester-bed along with me, a cradle, or be gnawed to death not so 
fast, in my old cradle, and the torn flesh have time rfo knit, as in 
the Caucasus, before being torn again. But it seems impossible to 
speak and yet say nothing, you think you have succeeded, but 
you always o^rlook something, a little yes, a little no, enough 
to exterminate a regiment of dragoons. And yet I do not despair, 
this time, while saying who I am, where I am, of not losing me, 
of not going from here, of ending here. What prevents tfk, miracle 
is the spirit of method to which I have perhaps been a little too 
addicted. The fact that Prometheus was delivered twenty-nine thou- 
sand nine hundred and seventy years after having purged his offence 
leaves me naturally as cold as camphor. For between me and that 
miscreant who mocked the gods, invented fire, denatured clay and 
domesticated the horse, in a word obliged humanity, I trust 
there is nothing in common. But the thing is worth mentioning. 
In a word, shall I be able to speak of me and of this place without 
putting an end to us, shall I ever be able to go silent, is there any 
connection between these two questions? Nothing like issues. There 
are a few to be going on with, perhaps one only. 

All these Murphys, Molloys and Malones do not fool me. They 
have made me waste my time, suffer for nothing, speak of them 
when, in order to stop speaking, I should have spoken of me and 
of me alone. But I just said I have spoicen of me, am speaking of 
me. I don’t care a curse what I just said. It is now I shall speak 
of me i‘or the first time. I thought I was right in enlisting these 
sufferers of my pains. I was wrong. They never suffered my pains, 
their pains are nothing, compared to mine, a mere tittle of mine, 
the tittle I thought I could put from me, in order to witness it. 
Let them be gone now, them and all the others, those I have used 



and those I have not used, give me back the pains I lent them and 
vanish, from my life, my memory, my terrors and shames. There, 
now there is no one here but me, no one wheels about me, no one 
comes towards me, no one has ever met anyone before my eyes, 
these creatures have never been, only I and this black void have 
ever been. And the sounds? No, all is silent. And the lights, on 
which I had set such store, must they too go out? Yes, out with 
them, there is no light here. No grey either, black is what I should 
have said. Nothing then but me, of which I know nothing, except 
that I have never uttered, and this black, of which I know nothing 
either, except that it is black, and empty. That then is what, since 
I have to speak, I shall speak of, until I need speak no more. And 
Basil and his gang? Inexistent, invented to explain I forget what. 
Ah yes, all lies, God and man, nature and the light of day, the 
heart's outpourings and the means of understanding, all invented, 
basely, uy me alone, with the help of no one, since there is no one, 
to put off the hour when I must speak of me. There will be no more 
about tjiem. 

I, of whom 1 know nothing, I know my eyes are open, because 
of the tears that pour from them unceasingly. I know I am seated, 
my hands on my knees, because of the pressure against my rump, 
against the soles of my feet, against the palms of my hands, against 
my knees. Against my palms the pressure is of my knees, against 
my knees of my palms, but what is it that presses against my rump, 
against the soles of my feet? I don’t know. My spine is not sup- 
ported. I mention these details to make sure I am not lying on my 
back, my legs raised and bent, my eyes closed. It is well to establish 
the position of the body from the outset, before passing on to more 
important matters. But what makes me say I gaze straight before 
me, as I have said? I feel my back straight, my neck stiff and free 
of twist and up on top of it the head, like the ball of the cup-and- 
ball in its cup at the end of the stick. These comparisons are un- 
called for. Then there is the way of flowing of my tears which 
flow all over my face, and even down along the neck, in a way it 
seems to me they could not do if the face were bowed, or lifted 
up. But I must not confuse the unbowed head with the level gaze, 
nor the vertical with the horizontal plane. This question in any case 



is secondary, since I see nothing. Am I clothed? I have often asked 
myself this question, then suddenly started talking about Malone’s 
hat, or Molloy’s greatcoat, or Murphy’s suit. If I am, I am but 
lightly. For I feel my tears coursing over my chest, my sides, and 
all down my back. Ah yes, I am truly bathed in teaii. They 
gather in my beard and from there, when it can hold no more — 
no, no beard, no hair either, it is a great smooth ball I carry on 
my shoulders, featureless, but for the eyes, of which only the sockets 
remain. And were it not for the distant testimony of my palms, 
my soles, which I have not yet been able to quash, ^ would gladly 
give myself the shape, if not the consistency, of an egg, with two 
holes no matter where to prevent it from bursting, for the con- 
sistency is more like that of mucilage But softly, softly, other- 
wise I’ll never arrive. In the matter of clothes then 1 can think of 
nothing for the moment but possibly puttees, with perhaps a few 
rags clinging to me here and there. No more obsceniu's either. 
Why should I have a sex, who have no longer a nose? All those 
things have fallen, all the things that stick out, with my eyes, my 
hair, without leaving a trace, fallen so far, so deep, that I heard 
nothing, perhaps are falling still, my hair slowly like soot still, 
of the fall of my ears heard nothing. Mean words, and needless, 
from the mean old spirit, I invented love, music, the smell of 
flowering currant, to escape from me. Organs, a without, it’s easy 
to imagine, a god, it’s unavoidable, you imagine them, it’s easy, 
the worst is dulled, you doze away, an instant. Yes, God, fomenter 
of calm, 1 never believed, not a second. No more pauses either. 
Can I keep nothing then, nothing of what has borne my poor 
thoughts, bent beneath my words, while I hid? I’ll dry these 
streaming sockets too, bung them up, there, it’s done, no more 
tears. I’m a big talking ball, talking about things that do not exist, 
or that exist perhaps, impossible to know, beside the point. Ah yes, 
quick let me change my tune. And after all why a ball, rather 
than something else, and why big? Why not a cylinder, a small 
cylinder? An egg, a medium egg? No no, that’s the old nonsense, 
I always knew I was round, solid and round, without daring to 
say so, no asperities, no apertures, invisible perhaps, or as vast as 
Sirius in the Great Dog, these expressions mean nothing. All that 



matters is that I am round and hard, there must be reasons for that, 
for my being round and hard rather than of some irregular shape 
and subject to the dents and bulges incident to shock, but I have 
done with reasons. All the rest I renounce, including this ridiculous 
black tfhich I thought for a moment worthier than grey to enfold 
me. What rubbish all this stuff about light and dark. And how I 
have luxuriated in it. But do I roll, in the manner of a true ball? 
Or am I in equilibrium somewhere, on one of my numberless 
poles? I feel strongly tempted to inquire. What reams of discourse 
I could elici^ from this seemingly so legitimate preoccupation. 
But which would not be credited to me. No, between me and the 
right to silence, the living rest, stretches the same old lesson, the 
.one I once knew by heart and would not say, I deto’t know why, 
perhaps for fear of silence, or thinking any old thing would do, 
and so for preference lies, in order to remain hidden, no impor- 
tance. Bpi now I shall say my old lesson, if I can remember it. 
Under the skies, on the roads, in the towns, in the woods, in the 
hills, in the plains, by the shores, on the seas, behind my mannikins, 
I was not always sad, I wasted my time, abjured my rights, suffered 
for nothing, forgot my lesson. Then a little hell after my own heart, 
not too cruel, with a few nice damned to foist my groans on, 
something sighing off and on and the distant gleams of pity’s fires 
biding their hour to promote us to ashes. I speak, speak, because 
I must, but I do not listen, I seek my lesson, my life I used to 
know and would not confess, hence possibly an occasional slight 
lack of limpidity. And perhaps now again I shall do no more than 
seek my lesson, to the self-accompaniment of a tongue that is not 
mine. But instead of saying what I should not have said, and what 
I shall say no more, if I can, and what I shall say perhaps, if I 
can, should I not rather say some other thing, even though it be 
not yet the right thing? I’ll try, I’ll try in another present, even 
though it be not yet mine, without pauses, without tears, without 
eyes, without reasons. Let it be assumed then that I am at rest, 
though this is unimportant, at rest or forever moving, through the 
air or in contact with other surfaces, or that I sometimes move, 
sometimes rest, since I feel nothing, neither quietude nor change, 
nothing that can serve as a point of departure towards an opinion 



on this subject, which would not greatly matter if I possessed some 
general notions, and then the use of reason, but there it is, I feel 
nothing, know nothing, and as far as thinking is concerned I do 
just enough to preserve me from going silent, you can’t call that 
thinking. Let us then assume nothing, neither that I mcwe, nor 
that I don’t, it’s safer, since the thing is unimportant, and pass on 
to those that are. Namely? This voice that speaks, knowing that it 
lies, indifferent to what it says, too old perhaps and too abased 
ever to succeed in saying the words that would be its last, knowing 
itself useless and its uselessness in vain, not listening to itself but 
to the silence that it breaks and whence perhaps one day will 
come stealing the long clear sigh of advent and farewell, is it one? 
I ll ask no m<fre questions, there are no more questions, I know 
none any more. It issues from me, it tills me, it clamours against 
my walls, it is not mine, I can’t stop it, I can’t prrv^nt it, from 
tearing me, racking me, assailing me. It is not mine, 1 fc°«ye none, 
I have no voice and must speak, that is all I know, it’s round that 
I must revolve, of that I must speak, with this voice that is not 
mine, but can only be mine, since there is no one but ihe, or if 
there are others, to whom it might belong, they have never come 
near me. I won't delay just now to make this clear. Perhaps they 
are watching me from afar, I have no objection, as long as I don’t 
see them, watching me like a face in the embers which they know 
is doomed to crumble, but it takes too long, it’s getting late, eyes 
are heavy and tomorrow they must rise betimes. So it is I who 
speak, all alone, since I can’t do otherwise. No, I am speechless. 
Talking of speaking, what if I went silent? What would happen 
to me then? Worse than what is happening? But fie these are 
questions again. That is typical. I know no more questions and they 
keep on pouring out of my mouth. I think I know what it is, it’s 
to prevent the discourse from coming to an end, this futile dis- 
course which is not credited to me and brings me not a syllable 
nearer silence. But now Pam on my guard, I shall not answer them 
any more, I shall not pretend any more to answer them. Perhaps 
I shall be obliged, in order not to peter out, to invent another 
fairy-tale, yet another, with heads, trunks, arms, legs and all that 
follows, let loose in the changeless round of imperfect shadow and 



dubious light. But I hope and trust not. But I always can if neces- 
sary. For while unfolding my facetiae, the last time that happened 
to me, or to the other who passes for me, I was not inattentive. 
And it seemed to me then that I heard a murmur telling of another 
and le«s unpleasant method of ending my troubles and that I even 
succeeded in catching, without ceasing for an instant to emit my 
he said, and he said to himself, and he asked, and he answered, 
a certain number of highly promising formulae and which indeed 
I promised myself to turn to good account at the first opportunity, 
that is to say as soon as I had finished with my troop of lunatics. 
But all has gone clean from my head. For it is difficult to speak, 
even any old rubbish, and at the same time focus one’s attention 
on another point, where one’s true interest lies, as'fitfully defined 
by a feeble murmur seeming to apologise for not being dead. And 
what it seemed to me I heard then, concerning what I should do, 
and say in order to have nothing further to do, nothing further 
to say, it seemed to me I only barely heard it, because of the 
noise I was engaged in making elsewhere, in obedience to the un- 
intelligiole terms of an incomprehensible damnation. And yet I was 
sufficiently impressed by certain expressions to make a vow, while 
continuing my yelps, never to forget them and, what is more, to 
ensure they should engender others and finally, in an irresistible 
torrent, banish from my vile mouth all other utterance, from my 
mouth spent in vain with vain inventions all other utterance but 
theirs, the true at last, the last at last. But all is forgotten and I 
have done nothing, unless what I am doing now is something, and 
nothing could give me greater satisfaction. For if I could hear such 
a music at such a time, I mean while floundering through a pon- 
derous chronicle of moribunds in their courses, moving, clashing, 
writhing or fallen in short-lived swoons, with how much more 
reason should I not hear it now, when supposedly I am burdened 
with myself alone. But this is thinking again. And I see myself slip- 
ping, though not yet at the last cxtrcmiiV, towards the resorts of 
fable. Would it not be better if I were simply to keep on saying 
babababa, for example, while waiting to ascertain the true function 
of this venerable organ? Enough questions, enough reasoning, I 
resume, years later, meaning I suppose that I went silent, that I 



can go silent. And now this noise again. That is all rather obscure. 
I say years, though here there are no years. What matter how 
long? Years is one of Basil’s ideas. A short time, a long time, it’s 
all the same. I kept silence, that’s all that counts, if that counts, 
I have forgotten if that is supposed to count. And now it is taken 
from me again. Silence, yes, but what silence! For it is all very 
fine to keep silence, but one has also to consider the kind of silence 
one keeps. I listened. One might as well speak and be done with 
it. What liberty! I strained my ear towards what must have been 
my voice still, so weak, so far, that it was like the sea, a far calm 
sea dying — no, none of that, no beach, no shore, the sea is enough. 
I’ve had enough of shingle, enough of sand, enough of earth, 
enough of sea too. Decidedly Basil is becoming important. I’ll call 
him Mahood instead, I prefer that. I’m queer. It was he told me 
stories about me, lived in my stead, issued forth from me, came 
back to me, entered back into me, heaped stories on my*head. I 
don’t know how it was done. I always liked not knowing, but 
Mahood said it wasn’t right. He didn’t know either, but it worried 
him. It is his voice which has often, always, mingled with mine, 
and sometimes drowned it completely. Until he left me for good, 
or refused to leave me any more, I don’t know. Yes, I don’t know 
if he’s here now or far away, but I don’t think I am far wrong 
in saying that he has ceased to plague me. When he was away I 
tried to find myself again, to forget what he had said, about me, 
about my misfortunes, fatuous misfortunes, idiotic pains, in the 
light of my true situation, revolting word. But his voice continued 
to testify for me, as though woven into mine, preventing me from 
saying who I was, what I was, so as to have done with saying, done 
with listening. And still today, as he would say, though he plagues 
me no more his voice is there, in mine, but less, less. And being 
no longer renewed it will disappear one day, I hope, from mine, 
completely. But in order Jfor that to happen I must speak, speak. 
And at the same time, I do not deceive myself, he may come back 
again, or go away again and then come back again. Then my 
voice, the voice, would say. That’s an idea, now I’ll tell one of 
Mahood ’s stories, I need a rest. Yes, that’s how it would happen. 
And it would say. Then refreshed, set about the truth again, with 



redoubled vigour. To make me think I was a free agent. But it 
would not be my voice, not even in part. That is how it would be 
done. Or quietly, stealthily, the story would begin, as if nothing 
had happened and I still the teller and the told. But I would be 
fast asleep, my mouth agape, as usual, I would look the same as 
usual. And from my sleeping mouth the lies would pour, about me. 
No, not sleeping, listening, in tears. But now, is it I now, I on me? 
Sometimes I think it is. And then I realise it is not. I am doing 
my best, and failing again, yet again. I don’t mind failing, it’s a 
pleasure, bu., I want to go silent. Not as just now, the better to 
listen, but peacefully, victorious, without ulterior object. Then it 
would be a life worth having, a life at last. My ^speech-parched 
voice at rest would fill with spittle. I’d let it flow over and over, 
happy at last, dribbling with life, my pensum ended, in the silence. 
I spoke, I must have spoken, of a lesson, it was pensum I should 
have said, I confused pensum with lesson. Yes, I have a pensum 
to discharge, before I can be free, free to dribble, free to speak 
no more, listen no more, and I’ve forgotten what it is. There at 
last is a fair picture of my situation. I was given a pensum, at 
birth perhaps, as a punishment for having been born perhaps, 
or for no particular reason, because they dislike me, and I’ve 
forgotten what it is. But was I ever told? Squeeze, squeeze, not 
too hard, but squeeze a little longer, this is perhaps about you, 
and your goal at hand. After ten thousand words? Well let us 
say one goal, after it there will be others. Speak, yes, but to me, 
I have never spoken enough to me, never listened enough to me, 
never replied enough to me, never had pity enough on me, I have 
spoken for my master, listened for the words of my master never 
spoken. Well done, my child, well done, my son, you may stop, 
you may go, you are free; you arc acquitted, you are pardoned, 
never spoken. My master. There is a vein I must not lose sight 
of. But for the moment my concern — but before I forget, there 
may be more than one, a whole college of tyrants, differing in their 
views as to what should be done with me, in conclave since time 
began or a little later, listening to me from time to time, then 
breaking up for a meal or a game of cards — my concern is with 
the pensum of which I think I may safely say, without loss of face, 



that it is in some way related to that lesson too hastily proclaimed, 
too hastily denied. For all I need say is this, that if I have a pensum 
to perform it is because I could not say my lesson, and that when 
I have finished my pensum I shall still have my lesson^to say, 
before I have the right to stay quiet in my corner, alive and drib- 
bling, my mouth shut, my tongue at rest, far from all disturbance, 
all sound, my mind at peace, that is to say empty. But this does 
not get me very far. For even should I hit upon the right pensum, 
somewhere in this churn of words at last, I would still have to 
reconstitute the right lesson, unless of course the tw*> are one and 
the same, which obviously is not impossible either. Strange notion 
in any case, and eminently open to suspicion, that of a task to be 
performed, before one can be at rest. Strange task, which consists 
in speaking of oneself. Strange hope, turned towards silence and 
peace. Possessed of nothing but my voice, the voice, it may seem 
natural, once the idea of obligation has been swalloweS, that I 
should interpret it as an obligation to say something. But is it 
possible? Bereft of hands, perhaps it is my duty to clap or, striking 
the palms together, to call the waiter, and of feet, to dance the 
Carmagnole. But let us first suppose, in order to get on a little, 
then we’ll suppose something else, in order to get on a little further, 
that it is in fact required of me that I say something, something 
that is not to be found in all I have said up to now. That seems a 
reasonable assumption. But thence to infer that the something 
required is something about me suddenly strikes me as unwar- 
ranted. Might it not rather be the praise of my master, intoned, in 
order to obtain his forgiveness? Or the admission that I am 
Mahood after all and these stories of a being whose identity he 
usurps, and whose voice he prevents from being heard, all lies 
from beginning to end? And what if^Mahood were my master? 
I’ll lea’-e it at that, for the time being. So many prospects in so 
short a time, it’s too much. Decidedly it seems impossible, at this 
stage, that I should dispense with questions, as I promised myself 
I would. No, I merely swore I’d stop asking them. And perhaps 
before long, who knows, I shall light on the happy combination 
which will prevent them from ever arising again in my — let us not 
be over-nice — mind. For what I am doing is not being done without 



a minimum of mind. Not mine perhaps, granted, with pleasure, 
but I draw on it, at least I try and look as if I did. Rich matter 
there, to be exploited, fatten you up, suck it to the core, keep you 
going Jor years, tasty into the bargain, I quiver at the thought, 
give you my word, spoken in jest, quiver and hurry on, all life 
before me, on and forget, what I was saying, just now, something 
important, it’s gone, it’ll come back, no regrets, as good as new, 
unrecognisable, let’s hope so, some day when I feel more on for 
high-class nuts to crack. On. The master. I never paid him enough 
attention. No more perhapses either, that old trick is worn to a 
thread. I’ll forbid myself everything, then go on as if I hadn’t. 
The master. A few allusions here and there, as to q, satrap, with a 
view to enlisting sympathy. They clothed me and gave me money, 
that kind of thing, the light touch. Then no more. Or Moran’s 
boss, I forget his name. Ah yes, certain things, things I invented, 
hoping (or the best, full of doubts, croaking with fatigue, I remem- 
ber certain things, not always the same. But to investigate this 
matter seriously, I mean with as much futile ardour as that of 
the underling, which I hoped was mine, close to mine, the road 
to mine, no, that never occurred to me. And if it occurs to me 
now it is because I have despaired of mine. A moment of dis- 
couragement, to strike while hot. My master then, assuming he is 
solitary, in my image, wishes me well, poor devil, wishes my good, 
and if he does not seem to do very much in order not to be dis- 
appointed it is because there is not very much to be done or, better 
still, because there is nothing to be done, otherwise he would have 
done it, my great and good master, that must be it, long ago, poor 
devil. Another supposition, he has taken the necessary steps, his 
will is done as far as I am concerned (for he may have other 
proteges) and all is well with me without my knowing it. Cases 
one and two. I’ll consider the former first, if I can. Then I’ll admire 
the latter, if my eyes are still open. This squnds like one of Malone’s 
anecdotes. But quick, consider, before you forget. There he is then, 
the unfortunate brute, quite miserable because of me, for whom 
there is nothing to be done, and he so anxious to help, so used to 
giving orders and to being obeyed. There he is, ever since I came 
into the world, possibly at his instigation, I wouldn’t put it past 



him, commanding me to be well, you know, in every way, no 
complaints at all, with as much success as if he were shouting at 
a lump of inanimate matter. If he is not pleased with this panegyric 
1 hope I may be — I nearly said hanged, but that I hope in any 
case, without restriction, I nearly said con, that would cut my 
cackle. Ah for a neck ! I want all to be well with you, do you hear 
me, that’s what he keeps on dinning at me. To which I reply, in 
a respectful attitude, I too, your Lordship. I say that to cheer him 
up., he sounds so unhappy. I am good-hearted, on the surface. No, 
we have no conversation, never a mum of his mouth to me. He’s 
out of luck, that’s certain, perhaps he didn’t choose me. What he 
means by good, my good, is another problem. He is capable of 
wanting me to be happy, such a thing has been known, it appears. 
Or to serve a purpose. Or the two at once! A little more explicit- 
ness on his part, since the initiative belongs to him, might be a 
help, as well from his point of view as from the one he Attributes 
to me. Let the man explain himself and have done with it. It’s none 
of my business to ask him questions, even if I knew howjto reach 
him. Let him inform me once and for all what exactly it is he wants 
from me, for me. What he wants is my good, I know that, at least 
I say it, in the hope of bringing him round to a more reasonable 
frame of mind, assuming he exists and, existing, hears me. But 
what good, there must be more than one. The supreme perhaps. 
In a word let him enlighten me, that’s all I ask, so that I may at 
least have the satisfaction of knowing in what sense I leave to be 
desired. If he wants me to say something, for my good naturally, 
he has only to tell me what it is and I’ll let it out with a roar 
straight away. It’s true he may have already told me a hundred 
times. Well, let him make it a hundred and one, this time I’ll try 
and pay attention. But perhaps I malign him unjustly, my good 
master perhaps he is not solitary like me, not free like me, but 
associated with others, equally good, equally concerned with my 
welfare, but differing as to its nature. Every day, up above, I 
mean up above me, from one set hour to another set hour, every- 
thing there being set and settled except what is to be done with 
me, they assemble to discuss me. Or perhaps it’s a meeting of 
deputies, with instructions to elaborate a tentative agreement. The 



fact of my continuing, while they are thus engaged, to be what I 
have always been is naturally preferable to a lame resolution, voted 
perhaps by a majority of one, or drawn from an old hat. They too 
are unhappy, all this time, each one to the best of his capacity, 
because all is not well with me. And now enough of that. If that 
doesn’t mollify them so much the worse for me, I can still conceive 
of such a thing. But one more suggestion before I forget and go on 
to serious matters. Why don't they wash their hands of me and set 
me free.? That might do me good. I don’t know. Perhaps then I 
could go silent, for good and all. Idle talk, idle talk, I am free, 
abandoned. All for nothing again. Even Mahood has left me. I’m 
alone. All this business of a labour to accomplish, before I can 
end, of words to say, a truth to recover, in order to say it, before 
I can end, of an imposed task, once known, long neglected, finally 
forgotten, to perform, before I can be done with speaking, done 
with listening, I invented it all, in the hope it would console me, 
help me to go on, allow me to think of myself as somewhere on 
a road, .moving, between a beginning and an end, gaining ground, 
losing ground, getting lost, but somehow in the long run making 
headway. All lies. I have nothing to do, that is to say nothing in 
particular. I have to speak, whatever that means. Having nothing 
to say, no words but the words of others, I have to speak. No one 
compels me to, there is no one, it’s an accident, a fact. 
Nothing can ever exempt me from it, there is nothing, nothing 
to discover, nothing to recover, nothing that can lessen what re- 
mains to say, I have the ocean to drink, so there is an ocean then. 
Not to have been a dupe, that will have been my best possession, 
my best deed, to have been a dupe, wishing I wasn’t, thinking I 
wasn’t, knowing I was, not being a dupe of not being a dupe. For 
any old thing, no, that doesn’t work, that should work, but it 
doesn’t. Labyrinthine torment that can’t be grasped, or limited, 
or felt, or suffered, no, not even suffered I suffer all wrong too, 
even that I do all wrong too, like an old turkey-hen dying on her 
feet, her back covered with chickens and the rats spying on her. 
Next instalment, quick. No cries, above all no cries, be urbane, a 
credit to the art and code of dying, while the others cackle, I can 
hear them from here, like the crackling of thorns, no, I forgot, k’s 



impossible, it’s myself I hear, howling behind my dissertation. So 
not any old thing. Even Mahood’s stories are not any old thing, 
though no less foreign, to what, to that unfamiliar native land of 
mine, as unfamiliar as that other where men come and go, and feel 
at home, on tracks they have made themselves, in order to visit 
one another with the maximum of convenience and dispatch, in the 
light of a choice of luminaries pissing on the darkness turn about, 
so that it is never dark, never deserted, that must be terrible. So 
be it. Not any old thing, but as near as no matter. Mahood. Before 
him there were others, taking themselves for me, it must be a sine- 
cure handed down from generation to generation, to judge by their 
family air. Mahood is no worse than his predecessors. But before 
executing his portrait, full length on his surviving leg, let me note 
that my next vice-exister will be a billy in the bowl, that’s final, 
with his bowl on his head and his arse in the dust, plump down on 
thousand-breasted Tellus, it’ll be softer for him. Faith that’s an 
idea, yet another, mutilate, mutilate, and perhaps some day, fif- 
teen generations hence, you’ll succeed in beginning to Ipok like 
yourself, among the passers-by. In the meantime it’s Mahood, this 
caricature is he. What if we were one and the same after all, as he 
affirms, and I deny? And I been in the places where he says I 
have been, instead of having stayed on here, trying to take advan- 
tage of his absence to unravel my tangle? Here, in my domain, 
what is Mahood doing in my domain, and how does he get here? 
There I am launched again on the same old hopeless business, 
there we are face to face, Mahood and I, if we are twain, as I say 
we are. I never so ,v him, I don’t sec him, he has told me what he 
is like, what I am like, they have all told me that, it must be one 
of their principal functions. It isn’t enough that I should know 
what I’m doing, I must also know what I’m looking like. This 
time I .im short of a leg. And yet it appears I have rejuvenated. 
ThatS part of the prognynme. Having brought me to death’s door, 
senile gangrene, they whip off a leg and yip off I go again, 
like a young one, scouring the earth for a hole to hide in. 
A single leg and other distinctive stigmata to go with it, human 
to be sure, but not exaggeratedly, lest I take fright and refuse to 
nibble. He’ll resign himself in the end, he’ll own up in the end. 



that's the watchword. Let’s try him this time with a hairless wedge- 
head, he might fancy that, that kind of talk. With the solitary leg 
in the middle, that might appeal to him. The poor bastards. They 
could clap an artificial anus in the hollow of my hand and still I 
wouldn't be there, alive with their life, not far short of a man, 
just barely a man, sufficiently a man to have hopes one day of 
being one, my avatars behind me. And yet sometimes it seems to 
me I am there, among the incriminated scenes, tottering under 
the attributes peculiar to the lords of creation, dumb with howling 
to be put out* of my misery, and all round me the spinach blue 
rustling with satisfaction. Yes. more than once 1 almost took myself 
for the other, all but suffered after his fashion, the space of an 
instant. Then they uncorked the champagne. One of us at last! 
Green with anguish! A real little terrestrial! Choking in the 
chlorophyll! Hugging the slaughterhouse walls! Paltry priests of 
the irrejftessible ephemeral, how they must hate me. Come, my 
lambkin, join in our gambols, it’s soon over, you’ll see, just time 
to frolicrwith a lambkinette, that’s jam. Love, there’s a carrot never 
fails, I always had to thread some old bodkin. And that’s the kind 
of jakes in which I sometimes dreamt I dwelt, and even let down 
my trousers. Mahood himself nearly codded me more than once. 
I’ve been he an instant, hobbling through a nature which, it is 
only fair to say, was on the barren side and, what is more, it is 
only just to add, tolerably deserted to begin with. After each thrust 
of my crutches I stopped, to devour a narcotic and measure the 
distance gone, the distance yet to go. My head is there too, broad 
at the base, its slopes denuded, culminating in a ridge or crowning 
glory strewn with long waving hairs like those that grow on naevi. 
No denying it. I’m confoundedly well informed. You must allow 
it was tempting. I say an instant, perhaps it was years. Then I with- 
drew my adhesion, it was getting too much of a good thing. I had 
already advanced a good ten paces, if ojie may call them paces, 
not in a straight line I need hardly say, but in a sharp curve which, 
if I continued to follow it, seemed likely to restore me to my 
point of departure, or to one adjacent. I must have got embroiled 
in a kind of inverted spiral, I mean one the coils of which, 
instead of widening more and more, grew narrower and narrower 



and finally, given the kind of space in which I was supposed to 
evolve, would come to an end for lack of room. Faced then with 
the material impossibility of going any further I should no doubt 
have had to stop, unless of course I elected to set off again at once 
in the opposite direction, to unscrew myself as it were, after paving 
screwed myself to a standstill, which would have been an experience 
rich in interest and fertile in surprises if I am to believe what I 
once was told, in spite of my protests, namely that there is no road 
so dull, on the way out, but it has quite a different aspect, quite a 
different dullness, on the way back, and vice versa. No good 
wriggling, I’m a mine of useless knowledge. But a difficulty arises 
here. For if by dint of winding myself up, if I may venture that 
ellipse, it doesn’t often happen to me now, if by dint of winding 
myself up, I don’t seem to have gained much time, if by dint of 
winding myself up I must inevitably find myself stuck in the end, 
once launched in the opposite direction should I not normally 
unfold ad infinitum, with no possibility of ever stopping, 
the space in which I was marooned being globular, or is it the earth, 
no matter, I know what I mean. But where is the difficulty 1 ? There 
was one a moment ago, I could swear to it. Not to mention that 
I could quite easily at any moment, literally any, run foul of a 
wall, a tree or similar obstacle, which of course it would be pro- 
hibited to circumvent, and thereby have an end put to my gyrations 
as effectively as by the kind of cramp just mentioned. But obstacles, 
it appears, can be removed in the fullness of time, but not by me, 
me they would stop dead forever, if I lived among them. But even 
without such aids it seems to me that once beyond the equator you 
would start turning inwards again, out of sheer necessity, I some- 
how have that feeling. At the particular moment I am referring to, 
I mean when I took myself for Mahood, I must have been coming 
to the end of a world tour, perhaps net more than two or three 
centum % to go. My state of decay lends colour to this view, per- 
haps < had left my leg behind in the Pacific, yes, no perhaps about 
it, I had, somewhere off the coast of Java and its jungles red with 
rafflesia stinking of carrion, no, that’s the Indian Ocean, what a 
gazetteer I am, no matter, somewhere round there. In a word I was 
returning tc the fold, admittedly reduced, and doubtless fated to 



be even more so, before I could be restored to my wife and parents, 
you know, my loved ones, and clasp in my arms, both of which I 
had succeeded in preserving, my little ones born in my absence. I 
found myself in a kind of vast yard or campus, surrounded by high 
walls, its surface an amalgam of dirt and ashes, and this seemed 
sweet to me after the vast and heaving wastes I had traversed, if 
my information was correct. I almost felt out of danger! At the 
centre of this enclosure stood a small rotunda, windowless, but well 
furnished with loopholes. Without being quite sure I had seen it 
before, l had been so long from home, I kept saying to myself. 
Yonder is the nest you should never have left, there your dear 
absent ones are awaiting your return, patiently, and you too must 
be patient. It was swarming with them, grandpa, ‘grandma, little 
mother and the eight or nine brats. With their eyes glued to the 
slits and their hearts going out to me they surveyed my efforts. 
This y^ r d so long deserted was now enlivened, for them, by me. 
So we turned, in our respective orbits, I without, they within. At 
night, keeping watch by turns, they observed me with the help of 
a searchlight. So the seasons came and went. The children increased 
in stature, the periods of Ptomaine grew pale, the ancients glowered 
at each other, muttering, to themselves. I’ll bury you yet, or. You’ll 
bury me yet. Since my arrival they had a subject of conversation, 
and even of discussion, the same as of old, at the moment of 
my setting forth, perhaps even an interest in life, the same as of old. 
Time hung less heavy on their hands. What about throwing him a 
few scraps? No no, it might upset him. They did not want to check 
the impetus that was sweeping me towards them. You wouldn’t 
know him! True, papa, and yet you can’t mistake him. They who 
in the ordinary way never answered when spoken to, my elders, 
my wife, she who had chosen me, rather than one of her suitors. 
A few more summers and he’ll be in our midst. Where am I going to 
put him? In the basement? Perhaps after all I am simply in the base- 
ment. What possesses him to be stopping all the time? Oh he was 
always like that, ever since he was a mite, always stopping, wasn’t 
he. Granny? Yes indeed, never easy, always stopping. According 
to Mahood I never reached them, that is to say they all died first, 
the whole ten or eleven of them, carried off by sausage-poisoning. 



in great agony. Incommoded first by their shrieks, then by the 
stench of decomposition, I turned sadly away. But not so fast, 
otherwise we’ll never arrive. It’s no longer I in any case. 
He’ll never reach us if he doesn’t get a move on. He looks as 
if he had slowed down, since last year. Oh the last laps* won’t 
take him long. My missing leg didn’t seem to affect them, perhaps 
it was already missing when I left. What about throwing him a 
sponge? No no, it might confuse him. In the evening, after supper, 
while my wife kept her eye on me, gaffer and gammer related my 
life history, to the sleepy children. Bedtime story atmosphere. That’s 
one of Mahood’s favourite tricks, to produce ostensibly independent 
testimony in support of my historical existence. The instalment 
over, all joinetk in a hymn. Safe in the arms of Jesus, for example, 
or, Jesus lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly, for example. 
Then they went to bed, with the exception of the one on watch 
duty. My parents differed in their views on me, but they wer^ agreed 
I had been a fine baby, at the very beginning, the first fortnight or 
three weeks. And yet he was a fine baby, with these words they 
invariably closed their relations. Often they fell silent, dhgulfed 
in their memories. Then it was usual for one of the children to 
launch, by way of envoy, the consecrated phrase. And yet he was 
a fine baby. A burst of clear and innocent laughter, from the mouths 
of those whom sleep had not yet overcome, greeted this premature 
conclusion. And the narrators themselves, torn from their melan- 
choly thoughts, could scarce forbear to smile. Then they all rose, 
with the exception of my mother whose knees couldn’t support 
her, and sang. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, for example, or Jesus, 
my one, my all, hear me when I call, for example. He too must 
have been a fine baby. Finally my wife announced the latest news, 
for them to take to bed with them. He’s backing away again, or. 
He’s stopped to scratch himself, or, V5ou should have seen him 
hopping sidelong, or. Oh look children, quick he’s down on his 
hands and knee, admittedly that must have been worth seeing. 
It was then customary that someone should ask her if I was ap- 
proaching none the less, if in spite of everything I was making 
headway, they couldn’t bear the thought of going to bed, those 
who were still awake, without the assurance that I wasn’t losing 



ground. Ptoto set their minds at rest. I had moved, no further 
proof was needed. I had been drawing near for so long now that 
provided I remained in motion there could be no cause for anxiety. 
I was launched, there was no reason why I should suddenly begin 
to refcfcat, I just wasn’t made that way. Then having kissed all 
round and wished one another happy dreams they retired, with 
the exception of the watch. What about hailing him? Poor Papa, 
he burned to encourage me vocally. Stick it. lad, it’s your last 
winter. But in view of the trouble I was having, the trouble I was 
taking, they held him back, pointing out that the moment was ill- 
chosen to give me a shock. But what were my own feelings at this 
period? What was I thinking of? With what ? Was 1 having diffi- 
culty with my morale? The answer to all that is this, I quote 
Malone, that I was entirely absorbed in the business on hand and 
not at all concerned to know precisely, or even approximately, 
what it consisted in. The only problem for me was how to continue, 
since I could not do otherwise, to the best of my declining powers, 
in the motion which had been imparted to me. This obligation, and 
the quasi-impossibility of fulfilling it, engrossed me in a purely 
mechanical way, excluding notably the free play of the intelligence 
and sensibility, so that my situation rather resembled that of an 
old broken-down cart- or bat-horse unable to receive the least 
information either from its instinct or from its observation as to 
whether it is moving towards the stable or away from it, and 
not greatly caring either way. The question, among others, of how 
such things are possible had long since ceased to preoccupy me. 
This touching picture of my situation I found by no means un- 
attractive and as I recall it I find myself wondering again if I 
was not in fact the creature revolving in that yard, as Mahood 
assured me. Well supplied with pain-killers I drew upon them 
freely, without however permitting myself the lethal dose that 
would have cut short my functions, whatever they may have been. 
Having somehow or other remarked the habitation and even ad- 
mitted to myself that I had perhaps seen it before, I gave it no 
further thought, nor to the near and dear ones that filled it to 
overflowing, in a mounting fever of impatience. Though now close 
at hand, as the crow flies, to my goal, I did not quicken my step. 



I could have no doubt, but I had to husband my strength, if I was 
ever to arrive. I had no wish to arrive, but I had to do my utmost, 
in order to arrive. A desirable goal, no, I never had time to dwell 
on that. To go on, I still call that on, to go on and get on has been 
my only care, if not always in a straight line, at least in obedience 
to the figure assigned to me, there was never any room in my life 
for anything else. Still Mahood speaking. Never once have I 
stopped. My halts do not count. Their purpose was to enable me 
to go on. I did not use them to brood on my lot, but to rub myself 
as best I might with Elliman’s Embrocation, for example, or to 
give myself an injection of laudanum, no easy matters for a man 
with only one leg. Often the cry went up. He’s down! But in 
reality I had sutik to the ground of my own free will, in order to 
be rid of my crutches and have both hands available to minister 
to myself in peace and comfort. Admittedly it is difficult, for a 
man with but one leg, to sink to earth in the full force^-pf the 
expression, particularly when he is weak in the head and the sole 
surviving leg flaccid for want of exercise, or from excess^ of it. 
The simplest thing then is to fling away the crutches and collapse. 
That is what I did. They were therefore right in saying I had fallen, 
they were not far wrong. Oh I have also been known to fall in- 
voluntarily, but not often, an old warrior like me, you can imagine. 
But have it any way you like. Up or down, taking my anodynes, 
waiting for the pain to abate, panting to be on my way again, I 
stopped, if you insist, but not in the sense they meant when they 
said. He’s down again, he’ll never reach us. When I penetrate into 
that house, if I ever do, it will be to go on turning, faster and 
’aster, more and more convulsive, like a constipated dog, or one 
suffering from worms, overturning the furniture, in the midst of 
my family all trying to embrace me at once, until by virtue of a 
supreme spasm I am catapulted in the opposite direction and gradu- 
ally leavi backwards, without having said good-evening. I must 
really 1 nd myself to this ^lory a little longer, there may possibly 
be a grain of truth in it. Mahood must have remarked that I re- 
mained sceptical, for he casually let fall that I was lacking not 
only a leg, but an arm also. With regard to the homologous crutch, 
I seemed to have retained sufficient armpit to hold and manoeuvre 



it, with the help of my unique foot to kick the end of it forward as 
occasion required. But what shocked me profoundly, to such a 
degree that my mind (Mahood dixit) was assailed by insuperable 
doubts, was the suggestion that the misfortune experienced by my 
famity and brought to my notice first by the noise of their agony, 
then by the smell of their corpses, had caused me to turn back. 
From that moment on I ceased to go along with him. I’ll explain 
why, that will permit me to think of something else and in the first 
place of how to get back to me, back to where I am waiting for 
me. I’d just^as soon not, but it’s my only chance, at least I think 
so, the only chance I have of going silent, of saying something at 
last that is not false, if that is what they want, so as to have noth- 
ing more to say. My reasons. I'll give three or four, that ought to 
be enough for me. First this family of mine, the mere fact of having 
a family should have put me on my guard. But my good-will at 
certain moments is such, and my longing to have floundered how- 
ever briefly, however feebly, in the great life torrent streaming 
from the earliest protozoa to the very latest humans, that I, no, 
parenthesis unfinished. I’ll begin again. My family. To begin with 
it had no part or share in what I was doing. Having set forth from 
that place, it was only natural I should return to it, given the accur- 
acy of my navigation. And my family could have moved to other 
quarters during my absence, and settled down a hundred leagues 
away, without my deviating by as much as a hair’s-breadth from 
my course. As for the screams of pain and wafts of decomposition, 
assuming I was capable of noticing them, they would have seemed 
to me quite in the natural order of things, such as I had come to 
know it. If before such manifestations I had been compelled eacl 
time to turn aside, I should not have got very far. Washed on the 
surface only by the rains, my head cracking with unutterable im- 
precations, it was from rrtyself I should have had to turn aside, be- 
fore all else. After all perhaps I was doing so, that would account for 
my vaguely circular motion. Lies, lies, mine was not to know, nor 
to judge, nor to rail, but to go. That the bacillus botulinus should 
have exterminated my entire kith and kin, I shall never weary of 
repeating this, was something I could readily admit, but only on 
condition that my personal behaviour had not to suffer by it. Let 



us rather consider what really took place, if Mahood was telling 
the truth. And why should he have lied to me, he so anxious to 
obtain my adhesion, to what now that I come to think of it, to his 
conception of me? Why? For fear of paining me perhaps. But I 
am there to be pained, that is what my tempters have never grasped. 
What they all wanted, each according to his particular notion of 
what is endurable, was that I should exist and at the same time be 
only moderately, or perhaps I should say finitely pained. They 
have even killed me off, with the friendly remark that having 
reached the end of my endurance I had no choice buttfo disappear. 
The end of my endurance! It was one second they should have 
schooled me to endure, after that I would have held out for all 
eternity, whistling a merry tune. The hard knocks they invented 
for me! But the bouquet was this story of Mahood’s in which I 
appear as upset at having been delivered so economically of a pack 
of blood relations, not to mention the two cunts into the Bargain, 
the one for ever accursed that ejected me into this world and the 
other, infundibuliform, in which, pumping my likes, I tried ,to take 
my revenge. To tell the truth, let us be honest at least, it is some 
considerable time now since I last knew what I was talking about. 
It is because my thoughts are elsewhere. I am therefore forgiven. 
So long as one’s thoughts arc somewhere everything is permitted. 
On then, without misgiving, as if nothing had happened. And let 
us consider what really took place, if Mahood was telling the truth 
when he represented me as rid at one glorious sweep of parents, 
wife and heirs. I’ve plenty of time to blow it all skyhigh, this 
circus where it is enough to breathe to qualify for asphyxiation. 
I’ll find a way out of it, it won’t be like the other times. But I 
should not like to defame my defamer. For when he made me turn 
and set off in the other direction, before I had exhausted the possi- 
bilities of the one I was pursuing, he had not in mind a shrinking 
of the spirit, not for a moment, but a purely physiological com- 
motion, followed by a simple desire to vomit, corresponding res- 
pectively to the howls of my family as they grudgingly succumbed 
and the subsequent stench, this latter compelling me to beat in 
retreat under penalty of losing consciousness entirely. This version 
of the facts having been restored, it only remains to say it is no 



better than the other and no less incompatible with the kind of 
creature I might just conceivably have been if they had known how 
to take me. So let us consider now what really occurred. Finally 
I found myself, without surprise, within the building, circular in 
form us already stated, its ground-floor consisting of a single room 
flush with the arena, and there completed my rounds, stamping 
under foot the unrecognisable remains of my family, here a face, 
there a stomach, as the case might be, and sinking into them with 
the ends of my crutches, both coming and going. To say I did so 
with satisfaction would be stretching the truth. For my feeling was 
rather one of annoyance at having to flounder in such muck just 
at the moment when my closing contortions called for a firm and 
level surface. I like to fancy, even if it is not true? that it was in 
mother’s entrails I spent the last days of my long voyage, and set 
out on the next. No, I have no preference, Isolde’s breast would 
have done just as well, or papa's private parts, or the heart of one 
of the little bastards. But is it certain? Would I have not been more 
likely, in a sudden access of independence, to devour what remained 
of the fatal corned-beef? How often did 1 fall during these final 
stages, while the storms raged without? But enough of this non- 
sense. I was never anywhere but here, no one ever got me out of 
here. Enough of acting the infant who has been told so often 
how he was found under a cabbage that in the end he remembers 
the exact spot in the garden and the kind of life he led there before 
joining the family circle. There will be no more from me about 
bodies and trajectories, sky and earth, I don’t know what it all is. 
They have told me, explained to me, described to me, what it all 
is, what it looks like, what it’s all for, one after the other, thou- 
sands of times, in thousands of connections, until I must have begun 
to look as if I understood. Who would ever think, to hear me, that 
I’ve never seen anything," never heard anything but their voices? 
And man, the lectures they gave me on men, before they even 
began trying to assimilate me to him ! WYiat I speak of, what I speak 
with, all comes from them. It’s all the same to me, but it’s no 
good, there’s no end to it. It’s of me now I must speak, even if I 
have to do it with their language, it will be a start, a step towards 
silence and the end of madness, the madness of having to speak 



and not being able to, except of things that don’t concern me, that 
don’t count, that I don’t believe, that they have crammed me full 
of to prevent me from saying who I am, where I am, and from 
doing what I have to do in the only way that can put an end to it, 
from doing what I have to do. How they must hate me! 
Ah a nice state they have me in, but still I’m not their 
creature, not quite, not yet. To testify to them, until I die, as if 
there was any dying with that tomfoolery, that’s what they’ve sworn 
they’ll bring me to. Not to be able to open my mouth without pro- 
claiming them, and our fellowship, that’s what they imagine they’ll 
have me reduced to. It’s a poor trick that consists in ramming a 
set of words down your gullet on the principle that you can’t bring 
them up without being branded as belonging to their breed. But 
I’ll fix their gibberish for them. I never understood a word of it 
in any case, not a word of the stories it spews, like gobbets in a 
vomit. My inability to absorb, my genius for forgetting, aife more 
than they reckoned with. Dear incomprehension, it’s thanks to you 
I’ll be myself, in the end. Nothing will remain of all the lira they 
have glutted me with. And I’ll be myself at last, as a starveling 
belches his odourless wind, before the bliss of coma. But who, they? 
Is it really worth while inquiring? With my cogged means? No, 
but that’s no reason not to. On their own ground, with their own 
arms. I’ll scatter them, and their miscreated puppets. Perhaps I’ll 
find traces of myself by the same occasion. That’s decided then. 
What is strange is that they haven’t been pestering me for some 
time past, yes, they’ve inflicted the notion of time on me too. What 
conclusion, using their methods, am I to draw from this? Mahood 
is silent, that is to say his voice continues, but is no longer renewed. 
Do they consider me so plastered with their rubbish that I can 
never extricate myself, never make a gesture but their cast must 
come to life? But within, motionless, I can live, and utter me, for 
no ears but my own. The^ loaded me down with their trappings 
and s:oned me through the carnival. I’ll sham dead now, whom 
they couldn’t bring to life, and my monster’s carapace will rot off 
me. But it’s entirely a matter of voices, no other metaphor is appro- 
priate. They’ve blown me up with their voices, like a balloon, 
and even as I collapse it’s them I hear. Who, them? And why 



nothing more from them lately? Can it be they have abandoned 
me, saying. Very well, there’s nothing to be done with him, let’s 
leave it at that, he’s not dangerous. Ah but the little murmur of 
unconsenting man, to murmur what it is their humanity stifles, the 
little gasp of the condemned to life, rotting in his dungeon garrotted 
and racked, to gasp what it is to have to celebrate banishment, 
beware. No, they have nothing to fear, I am walled round with 
their vociferations, none will ever know what I am, none will ever 
hear me say it, I won’t say it, I can’t say it, I have no language but 
theirs, no, perhaps I’ll say it, even with their language, for me alone, 
so as not to have not lived in vain, and so as to go silent, if that 
is what confers the right to silence, and it’s unlikely, it’s they who 
have silence in their gift, ihey who decide, the tfame old gang, 
an.cng themselves, no matter, to hell with silence. I’ll say what I 
am, so as not to have not been born for nothing. I’ll fix their jargon 
for thern, then any old thing, no matter what, whatever they want, 
with a will, till time is done, at least with a good grace. First I’ll 
say what I’m not, that’s how they taught me to proceed, then what 
I am, it’s already under way, I have only to resume at the point 
where I let myself be cowed. I am neither, I needn’t say, Murphy, 
nor Watt, nor Mercier, nor — no, I can’t even bring myself to name 
them, nor any of the others whose very names I forget, who told 
me I was they, who I must have tried to be, under duress, or 
through fear, or to avoid acknowledging me, not the slightest con- 
nection. I never desired, never sought, never suffered, never par- 
took in any of that, never knew what it was to have, things, adver- 
saries, mind, senses. But enough of this. There is no use denying, 
no use harping on the same old thing I know so well, and so 
easy to say, and which simply amounts in the end to speak- 
ing yet again in the way they intend me to speak, that is 
to say about them, even with execration and disbelief. Perhaps 
they exist in the way they have decreed will be mine, it’s possible, 
I don’t know and I’m not interested. If they had taught me how to 
wish I’d wish they did. There’s no getting rid of them without 
naming them and their contraptions, that’s the thing to keep in 
mind. I might as well tell another of Mahood’s stories and no more 
about it;, to be understood in the way I was given to understand it. 



namely as being about me. That’s an idea. To heighten my disgust. 
I’ll recite it. This will leave me free to consider how I may best 
proceed with my own affair, beginning again at the point where 
I had to interrupt it, under duress, or through fear, or through 
ignorance. It will be the last story. I’ll try and look as if If was 
telling it willingly, to keep them quiet in case they should feel like 
refreshing my memory, on the subject of my behaviour above in 
the island, among my compatriots, contemporaries, coreligionists 
and companions in distress. This will leave me free to consider 
how to set about showing myself forth. No one will be any the 
wiser. But who are these maniacs let loose on me from on high 
for what they call my good, let us first try and throw a little light 
on that. To tell the truth— no, first the story. The island. I’m on 
the island. I’ve never left the island, God help me. I was under 
the impression I spent my life in spirals round the earth. Wrong, 
it’s on the island I wind my endless ways. The island, that’s all 
the earth I know. I don’t know it either, never having had the 
stomach to look at it. When I come to the coast I turn back inland. 
And my course is not helicoidal, I got that wrong too, but a suc- 
cession of irregular loops, now sharp and short as in the waltz, 
now of a parabolic sweep that embraces entire boglands, now be- 
tween the two, somewhere or other, and invariably unpredictable in 
direction, that is to say determined by the panic of the moment. 
But at the period I refer to now this active life is at an end, I do 
not move and never shall again, unless it be under the impulsion 
of a third party. For of the great traveller I had been, on my hands 
and knees in the later stages, then crawling on my belly or rolling 
on the ground, only the trunk remains (in sorry trim), surmounted 
by the head with which we are already familiar, this is the part of 
myself the description of which I have best assimilated and retained. 
Stuck like, a sheaf of flowers in a deep jSr, its neck flush with my 
mouth, on the side of a quiet street near the shambles, I am at rest 
at last. If I turn, I shall not say my head, but my eyes, free to roll 
as they list, I can see the statue of the apostle of horse’s meat, a 
bust. His pupillcss eyes of stone are fixed upon me. That makes 
four, with those of my creator, omnipresent, do not imagine I flatter 
myself I am privileged. Though not exactly in order I am tolerated 



by the police. They know I am speechless and consequently in- 
capable of taking unfair advantage of my situation to stir up the 
population against its governors, by means of burning oratory 
during the rush hour or subversive slogans whispered, after night- 
fall, to belated pedestrians the worse for drink. And since I have 
lost all my members, with the exception of the one-time virile, 
they know also that I shall not be guilty of any gestures liable to 
be construed as inciting to alms, a prisonable offence. The fact is 
I trouble no one, except possibly that category of hypersensitive 
persons for#whom the least thing is an occasion for scandal and 
indignation. But even here the risk is negligible, such people avoid- 
ing the neighbourhood for fear of being overcome at the sight of 
the cattle, fat and fresh from their pastures, troopVng towards the 
humane killer. From this point of view the spot is well chosen, from 
my point of view. And even those sufficiently unhinged to be 
affected by the spectacle I offer, I mean upset and temporarily 
diminished in their capacity for work and aptitude for happiness, 
need pnly look at me a second time, those who can bring them- 
selves to do it, to have immediately their minds made easy. For 
my face reflects nothing but the satisfaction of one savouring a 
well-earned rest. It is true my mouth was hidden, most of the 
time, and my eyes closed. Ah yes, sometimes it’s in the past, some- 
times in the present. And alone perhaps the state of my skull, 
covered with pustules and bluebottles, these latter naturally abound- 
ing in such a neighbourhood, preserved me from being an object 
of envy for many, and a source of discontent. I hope this gives a 
fair picture of my situation. Once a week I was taken out of my 
receptacle, so that it might be emptied. This duty fell to the pro- 
prietress of the chop-house across the street and she performed it 
punctually and without complaint, beyond an occasional good- 
natured reflection to the 'effect that I was a nasty old pig, for she 
had a kitchen-garden. Without perhaps having exactly won her 
heart it was clear I did not leave her indifferent. And before putting 
me back she took advantage of the circumstance that my mouth 
was accessible to stick into it a chunk of lights or a marrow-bone. 
And when snow fell she covered me with a tarpaulin still water- 
tight in places. It was under its shelter, snug and dry, that I became 



acquainted with the boon of tears, while wondering to what I 
was indebted for it, not feeling moved. And this not merely once, 
but every time she covered me, that is to say twice or three times 
a year. Yes, it was fatal, no sooner had the tarpaulin settled over 
me, and the precipitate steps of my benefactress died away, than 
the tears began to flow. Is this, was this to be interpreted as an 
effect of gratitude? But in that case should not I have felt grate- 
ful? Besides I realised darkly that if she took care of me thus, it 
was not solely out of goodness, or else I had not rightly under- 
stood the meaning of goodness, when it was explaiged to me. It 
must not be forgotten that I represented for this woman an undeni- 
able asset. For quite apart from the services I rendered to her 
lettuce, I constituted for her establishment a kind of landmark, not 
to say an advertisement, far more effective than for example a chef 
in cardboard, pot-bellied in profile and full face wafer thin. That 
she was well aware of this is shown by the trouble she had taken 
to festoon my jar with Chinese lanterns, of a very pretty effect in 
the twilight, and a fortiori in the night. And the jar itself, so that the 
passer-by might consult with greater ease the menu attached to it, 
had been raised on a pedestal at her own expense. It is thus I learnt 
that her turnips in gravy are not so good as they used to be, but 
that on the other hand her carrots, equally in gravy, are even 
better than formerly. The gravy has not varied. This is the kind 
of language I can almost understand, these the kind of clear and 
simple notions on which it is possible for me to build, I ask for no 
other spiritual nourishment. A turnip, I know roughly what a turnip 
is like, a carrot too, particularly the Flakkee, or Colmar Red. I 
seem to grasp at certain moments the nuance that divides bad 
from worse. And if I do not always feel the full force of yester- 
day and today, this does not detract very much from the satis- 
faction I feel at having penetrated the 1>ist of the matter. Of her 
salad, for example, I never heard anything but praise. Yes, I 
represent for her a tidy liftlc capital and, if I should ever happen 
to die, I am convinced she would be genuinely annoyed. This should 
help me to live. I like to fancy that when the fatal hour of reckon- 
ing comes,, if it ever does, and my debt to nature is paid off at last, 
she will do her best to prevent the removal, from where it now 



stands, of the old vase in which I shall have accomplished my 
vicissitudes. And perhaps in the place now occupied by my head 
she will set a melon, or a vegetable-marrow, or a big pineapple 
with its little tuft, or better still, I don’t know why, a swede, in 
memofy of me. Then I shall not vanish quite, as is so often the 
way with people when buried. But it is not to speak of her that I 
have started lying again. De nobis ipsis silemus, decidedly that 
should have been my motto. Yes, they gave me some lessons in 
pigsty Latin too, it looks well, sprinkled through the perjury. It is 
perhaps worjjh noting that snow alone, provided of course it is 
heavy, entitles me to the tarpaulin. No other form of filthy weather 
lets loose in her the maternal instinct, in my favour. I have tried 
to make her understand, dashing my head angrily against the neck 
of the jar, that I should like to be shrouded more often. At the 
same time I let my spittle flow over, in an attempt to show my 
displeasure. In vain. I wonder what explanation she can have found 
to account for this behaviour. She must have talked it over with 
her hqsband and probably been told that I was merely stifling, 
that is just the reverse of the truth. But credit where credit is due, 
we made a balls of it between us, I with my signs and she with 
her reading of them. This story is no good, I’m beginning almost 
to believe it. But let us see how it is supposed to end, that will sober 
me. The trouble is I forget how it goes on. But did I ever know? 
Perhaps it stops there, perhaps they stopped it there, saying, who 
knows. There you are now, you don’t need us any more. This in 
fact is one of their favourite devices, to stop suddenly at the least 
sign of adhesion from me, leaving me high and dry, with nothing 
for my renewal but the life they have imputed to me. And it is 
only when they see me stranded that they take up again the thread 
of my misfortunes, judging me still insufficiently vitalised to bring 
them to a successful contusion alone. But instead of making the 
junction, I have often noticed this, I mean instead of resuming me 
at the point where I was left off, they pick me up at a much later 
stage, perhaps thereby hoping to induce in me the illusion that I 
bad got through the interval all on my own, lived without help of 
any kind for quite some time, and with no recollection of by what 
means or in what circumstances, or even died, all on my own, and 



come back to earth again, by way of the vagina like a real live 
baby, and reached a ripe age, and even senility, without the least 
assistance from them and thanks solely to the hints they had given 
me. To saddle me with a lifetime is probably not enough for them, 
I have to be given a taste of two or three generations. But it’s 
not certain. Perhaps all they have told me has reference to a single 
existence, the confusion of identities being merely apparent aqd 
due to my inaptitude to assume any. If I ever succeed in dying 
under my own steam, then they will be in a better position to decide 
if I am worthy to adorn another age, or to try the same one again, 
with the benefit of my experience. I may therefore perhaps legiti- 
mately suppose that the one-armed one-legged wayfarer of a 
moment ago ftnd the wedge-headed trunk in which I am now 
marooned are simply two phases of the same carnal envelope, the 
soul being notoriously immune from deterioration and dismember- 
ment. Having lost one leg, what indeed more likely thar* that I 
should mislay the other? And similarly for the arms. A natural 
transition in sum. But what then of that other old age they be- 
stowed upon me. if I remember right, and that other middle age, 
when neither legs nor arms were lacking, but simply the power 
to profit by them? And of that kind of youth in which they had 
to give me up for dead? If I have a warm place, it is not in their 
hearts. Oh I don’t say they haven’t done all they could to be agree- 
able to me, to get me out of here, on no matter what pretext, in 
no matter what disguise. All I reproach them with is their insistence. 
For beyond them is that other who will not give me quittance 
until they have abandoned me as inutilisable and restored me to 
myself. Then at last I can set about saying what I was, and where, 
during all this long lost time. But who is he, if my guess is right, 
who is waiting for that, from me? And who these others whose 
designs are so different? And into whose hands I play when I ask 
myself *uch questions? But do I, do I? In the jar did I ask myself 
questions? And in the are’ha? I have dwindled, I dwindle. Not so 
long ago, with a kind of shrink of my head and shoulders, as when 
one is scolded, I could disappear. Soon, at my present rate of 
decrease, I may spare myself this effort. And spare myself the 
trouble of closing my eyes, so as not to see the day, for they are 



blinded by the jar a few inches away. And I have only to let my 
head fall forward against the wall to be sure that the light from 
above, which at night is that of the moon, will not be reflected 
there either, in those little blue mirrors, I used to look at myself 
in them, to try and brighten them. Wrong again, wrong again, this 
effort and this trouble will not be spared me. For the woman, dis- 
pleased at seeing me sink lower and lower, has raised me up by 
filling the bottom of my jar with sawdust which she changes every 
week, when she makes my toilet. It is softer than the stone, but 
less hygienic* And I had got used to the stone. Now I’m getting 
used to the sawdust. It’s an occupation. I could never bear to be 
idle, it saps one’s energy. And I open and close my eyes, open and 
close, as in the past. And I move my head in and out, in and out, 
as heretofore. And often at dawn, having left it out all night, I 
bring it in, to mock the woman and lead her astray. For in the 
mornii^. when she has rattled up her shutters, the first look of her 
eyes still moist with fornication is for the jar. And when she does 
not sea- my head she comes running to find out what has happened. 
For either I have escaped during the night or else I have shrunk 
again. But just before she reaches me I up with it like a jack-in-the- 
box, the old eyes glaring up at her. I mentioned I cannot turn my 
head, and this is true, my neck having stiffened prematurely. But 
this does not mean it is always facing in the same direction. For 
with a kind of tossing and writhing I succeed in imparting to my 
trunk the degree of rotation required, and not merely in one 
direction, but in the other also. My little game, which I should 
have thought inoffensive, has cost me dear, and yet I could have 
sworn I was insolvable. It is true one docs not know one’s riches 
until they are lost and I probably have others still that only await 
the thief to be brought to my notice. And today, if I can still open 
and close my eyes, as in fhe past, I can no longer, because of my 
roguish character, move my head in arjd out, as in the good old 
days. For a collar, fixed to the mouth of the jar, now encircles my 
neck, just below the chin. And my lips which used to be hidden, 
and which I sometimes pressed against the freshness of the stone, 
can now be seen by all and sundry. Did I say I catch flics? I snap 
them up, clack! Does this mean I still have my teeth? To have 



lost one’s limbs and preserved one’s dentition, what a mockery! 
But to revert now to the gloomy side of this affair, I may say that 
this collar, or ring, of cement, makes it very awkward for me to 
turn, in the way I have said. I take advantage of this to learn to 
stay quiet. To have forever before my eyes, when I opeif them, 
approximately the same set of hallucinations exactly, is a joy I might 
never have known, but for my cang. There is really only one thing 
that worries me, and that is the prospect of being throttled if I 
should ever happen to shorten further. Asphyxia! I who was 
always the respiratory type, witness this thorax still mine, together 
with the abdomen. I who murmured, each time I breathed in. Here 
comes more oxygen, and each time I breathed out. There go the 
impurities, th* blood is bright red again. The blue face! The 
obscene protrusion of the tongue! The tumefaction of the penis! 
The penis, well now, that’s a nice surprise, I’d forgotten I had one. 
What a pity I have no arms, there might still be something to be 
wrung from it. No, ’tis better thus. At my age, to start manstuprat- 
ing again, it would be indecent. And fruitless. And yet one can 
never tell. With a yo heave ho, concentrating with all my might on 
a horse’s rump, at the moment when the tail rises, who knows, 
I might not go altogether empty-handed away. Heaven, I almost 
felt it flutter! Does this mean they did not geld me? I could have 
sworn they had gelt me. But perhaps I am getting mixed up with 
other scrota. Not another stir out of it in any case. I’ll concentrate 
again. A Clydesdale. A Suffolk stallion. Come come, a little co- 
operation please, finish dying, it’s the least you might do, after 
all the trouble they’ve taken to bring you to life. The worst is 
over. You’ve been sufficiently assassinated, sufficiently suicided, to 
be able now to stand on your own feet, like a big boy. That’s 
what I keep telling myself. And I add, quite carried away, Slough 
off this mortal inertia, it is out of places in this society. They can’t 
do even.hing. They have put you on the right road, led you by 
the ha id to the very britfk of the precipice, now it’s up to you, 
with an unassisted last step, to show them your gratitude. I like 
this colourful language, these bold metaphors and apostrophes. 
Through the splendours of nature they dragged a paralytic and now 
there’s nothing more to admire it’s my duty to jump, that it may 



be said. There goes another who has lived. It docs not seem to 
occur to them that I was never there, that this glassy eye, this 
fallen chap and the foam at the mouth owe nothing to the Bay of 
Naples, or Aubervilliers. The last step ! I who could never manage 
the first. But perhaps they would consider themselves sufficiently 
rewarded if I simply waited for the wind to blow me over. That by 
all means, it’s in my repertory. The trouble is there is no wind 
equal to it. The cliff would have to cave in under me. If only I 
were alive inside one might look forward to heart-failure, or to a 
nice little infarctus somewhere or other. It’s usually with sticks 
they put me out of their agony, the idea being to demonstrate, to 
the backers, and bystanders, that I had a beginning, and an end. 
Then planting the foot on my chest, where all is as> usual, to the 
assembly. Ah if you had seen him fifty years ago, what push, 
what go! Knowing perfectly well they have to begin me all over 
again. But perhaps I exaggerate my need of them. I accuse myself 
of inertia, and yet I move, at least I did, can I by any chance have 
missed # the tide? Let us consider the head. There something seems 
to stir, from time to time, no reason therefore to despair of a fit 
of apoplexy. What else? The organs of digestion and evacuation, 
though sluggish, are not wholly inactive, as is shown by the atten- 
tions I receive. It’s encouraging. While there’s life there’s hope. 
The flies, considered as traumatic agents, hardly call for mention. 
I suppose they might bring me typhus. No, that’s rats. I have seen 
a few, but they are not yet reduced to me. A lowly tapeworm? 
Not interesting. It is clear in any case that I have lost heart too 
lightly, it is quite possible I have all that is required to give them 
satisfaction. But already I’m beginning to be there no more, in that 
calamitous street they made so clear to me. I could describe it, 
I could have, a moment ago, as if I had been there, in the form 
they chose for me, diminished certainly, not the man I was, not 
much longer for this world, but the eyes still open to impressions, 
and one ear, sufficiently, and the head sufficiently obedient, to pro- 
vide me at least with a vague idea of the elements to be eliminated 
from the setting in order for all to be empty and silent. That was 
always the way. Just at the moment when the world is assembled 
at last, and it begins to dawn on me how I can leave it, all fades 



and disappears. I shall never see this place again, where my jar 
stands on its pedestal, with its garland of many-coloured lanterns, 
and me inside it, I could not cling to it. Perhaps they will have me 
struck by lightning, for a change, or poleaxed, one merry bank- 
holiday evening, then bundled in my shroud and whiskecf away, 
out of sight and mind. Or removed alive, for a change, shifted and 
deposited elsewhere, on the off chance. And at my next appearance, 
if I ever appear again, all will be new, new and strange. But little 
by little I’ll get used to it, admonished by them, used to the scene, 
used to me, and little by little the old problem will rgise its horrid 
head, how to live, with their kind of life, for a single second, young 
or old, without aid and assistance. And thus reminded of other 
attempts, in dther circumstances, I shall start asking myself ques- 
tions, prompted by them, like those I have been asking, concern- 
ing me, and them, and these sudden shifts of time and age, and 
how to succeed at last where I had always failed, so that tf|py may 
be pleased with me, and perhaps leave me in peace at last, and free 
to do what I have to do, namely try and please the other, if that 
is what I have to do, so that he may be pleased with me, and leave 
me in peace at last, and give me quittance, and the right to rest, 
and silence, if that is in his gift. It’s a lot to expect of one creature, 
it’s a lot to ask, that he should first behave as if he were not, then 
as if he were, before being admitted to that peace where he neither 
is, nor is not, and where the language dies that permits of such 
expressions. Two falsehoods, two trappings, to be borne to the end, 
before I can be let loose, alone, in the unthinkable unspeakable, 
where I have not ceased to be, where they will not let me be. It 
will perhaps be less restful than I appear to think, alone there at 
last, and never importuned. No matter, rest is one of their words, 
think is another. But here at last, it seems to me, is food for 
delirium What a shame if I should pitch on something and never 
notice i‘., another candle throw its little light and I be none the wiser. 
Yes, 1 feel the moment h^s come for me to look back, if I can, and 
take my bearings, if I am Ho go on. If only I knew what I have 
been saying. Bah, no need to worry, it can only have been one thing, 
the same as ever. I have my faults, but changing my tune is not one 
of them. I have only to go on, as if there was something to be done. 



something begun, somewhere to go. It all boils down to a question 
of words, I must not forget this, I have not forgotten it. But I must 
have said this before, since I say it now. I have to speak in a 
certain way, with warmth perhaps, all is possible, first of the 
creature I am not, as if I were he, and then, as if I were he, of the 
creature I am. Before I can, etc. It’s a question of voices, of voices 
to keep going, in the right manner, when they stop, on purpose, to 
put me to the test, as now the one whose burden is roughly to the 
effect that I am alive. Warmth, ease, conviction, the right manner, 
as if it were my own voice, pronouncing my own words, words 
pronouncing me alive, since that's how they want me to be, I don’t 
know why, with their billions of quick, their trillions of dead, that’s 
not enough for them, I tou must contribute my little convulsion, 
mewl, howl, gasp and rattle, loving my neighbour and blessed with 
reason. But what is the right manner, I don't know. It is they who 
dictate this torrent of balls, they who stuffed me full of these groans 
that choke me. And out it all pours unchanged, I have only to 
belch to be sure of hearing them, the same old sour teachings I 
can’t change a tittle of. A parrot, that’s what they’re up against, a 
parrot. If they had told me what I have to say, in order to meet 
with their approval. I’d be bound to say it, sooner or later. But 
God forbid, that would be too easy, my heart wouldn’t be in it, 
I have to puke my heart out too, spew it up whole along with the 
rest of the vomit, it’s then at last I’ll look as if I mean what I’m 
saying, it won’t be just idle words. Well, don’t lose hope, keep your 
mouth open and your stomach turned, perhaps you’ll come out 
with it one of these days. But the other voice, of him who docs not 
share this passion for the animal kingdom, who is waiting to hear 
from me, what is its burden? Nice point, too nice for me. For on 
the subject of me properly so called, I know what I mean, so 
far as I know I have rccci\cd no information up to date. May one 
speak of a voice, in these conditions? Probably not. And vet I do. 
The fact is all this business about voices requires to be revised, 
corrected and then abandoned. Hearing nothing I am none the 
less a prey to communications. And I speak of voices! After all, 
why not, so long as one knows it’s untrue. But there are limits, 
it appears. Let them come. So nothing about me. That is to say 



no connected statement. Faint calls, at long intervals. Hear mel 
Be yourself again! Someone has therefore something to say to 
me. But never the least news concerning me, beyond the insinua- 
tion that I am not in a condition to receive any, since I am not 
there, which I knew already. I have naturally remarked? in a 
moment of exceptional receptivity, that these exhortations are 
conveyed to be by the same channel as that used by Malone and 
Co. for their transports. That’s suspicious, or rather would be if I 
still hoped to obtain, from these revelations to come, some truth of 
more value than those I have been plastered with ever since they 
took it into their heads I had better exist. But thi! fond hope, 
which buoyed me up as recently as a moment ago, if I remember 
right, has now passed from me. Two labours then, to be distin- 
guished perhaps, as the mine from the quarry, on the plane of the 
effort required, but identically deficient in charm and interest. I. 
Who might that be? The galley-man, bound for the Pillars of Her- 
cules, who drops his sweep under cover of night and crawls be- 
tween the thwarts, towards the rising sun, unseen by the 
guard, praying for storm. Except that I’ve stopped praying for 
anything. No no, I’m still a suppliant. I’ll get over it, between now 
and the last voyage, on this leaden sea. It’s like the other madness, 
the mad wish to know, to remember, one’s transgressions. I won’t 
be caught at that again. I’ll leave it to this year’s damned. And now 
let us think no more about it, think no more about anything, think 
no more. He alone or they a many, all solicit me in the same tongue, 
the only one they taught me. They told me there were others, I 
don’t regret not knowing them. The moment the silence is broken 
in this way it can only mean one thing. Orders, prayers, threats, 
praise, reproach, reasons. Praise, yes, they gave me to understand 
I was making progress. Well done, sonny, that will be all for today, 
run alon** now back to your dark and see you tomorrow. And 
there I :<in, with my white beard, sitting among the children, bab- 
bling, cringing from the *rod. I’ll die in the lower third, bowed 
down with years and impositions, four foot tall again, like when 
I had a future, bare-legged in my old black pinafore, wetting my 
drawers. Pupil Mahood, for the twenty-five thousandth time, what 
is a mammal? And I’ll fall down dead, worn out by the rudiments. 



But I'll have made progress, they told me so, only not enough, 
not enough. Ah! Where was I, in my lessons? That is what has 
had a fatal effect on my development, my lack of memory, no 
doubt about it. Pupil Mahood, repeat after me, Man is a higher 
mammal. I couldn’t. Always talking about mammals, in this men- 
agerie. Frankly, between ourselves, what the hell could it matter 
to pupil Mahood, that man was this rather than that? Presumably 
nothing has been lost in any case, since here it all comes slobber- 
ing out again, let loose by the nightmare. I’ll have my bellyful of 
mammals, I can see that from here, before I wake. Quick, give 
me a mother 1 and let me suck her white, pinching my tits. But it’s 
time I gave this solitary a name, nothing doing without proper 
names. I therefore baptise nim Worm. It was high time. Worm. 
I don’t like it, but I haven’t much choice. It will be my name too, 
when the time comes, when I needn’t be called Mahood any more, 
if that happy time ever comes. Before Mahood there were others 
like him, of the same breed and creed, armed with the same prong. 
But Worm is the first of his kind. That’s soon said. I must not 
forget I don’t know him. Perhaps he too will weary, renounce the 
task of forming me and make way for another, having laid the 
foundations. He has not yet been able to speak his mind, only 
murmur, I have not ceased to hear his murmur, all the while the 
others discoursed. He has survived them all, Mahood too, if 
Mahood is dead. I can hear him yet, faithful, begging me to still 
this dead tongue of the living. I imagine that is what he says, in 
his unchanging tone. If I could be silent I would better understand 
what he wants of me, wants me to be, wants me to say. Why 
doesn’t he thunder it at me and get it over? Too easy, it is I who 
must be silent, hold my breath. But there is something wrong here. 
For if Mahood were silent. Worm would be silent too. That the 
impossible should be asked of me, good, what else could be asked 
of me? But the absurd ! Of me whom they have reduced to reason. 
It is true poor Worm is not to blame for this. That’s soon said. 
But let me complete my views, before .T shit on them. For if I am 
Mahood. I am Worm too., plop. Or if I am not yet Worm, I shall 
be when I cease to be Mahood, plop. On now to serious matters. 
No, not yet. Another of Mahood’s yarns perhaps, to perfect my 



besotment. No, not worth the trouble, it will come at its appointed 
hour, the record is in position from time immemorial. Yes, the big 
words must out too, all be taken as it comes. The problem of liberty 
too, as sure as fate, will come up for my consideration at the pre- 
established moment. But perhaps I have been too hasty in oppos- 
ing these two fomenters of fiasco. Is it not the fault of one that I 
cannot be the other? Accomplices therefore. That’s the way to 
reason, warmly. Or is one to postulate a tertius gaudens, meaning 
myself, responsible for the double failure? Shall I come upon my 
true countenance at last, bathing in a smile? I have the feeling I 
shall be spared this spectacle. At no moment do I know what I’m 
talking about, nor of whom, nor of where, nor how, nor why, but 
I could employ fifty wretches for this sinister operation and still be 
short of a fifty-first, to close the circuit, that I know, without know- 
ing what it means. The essential is never to arrive anywhere, never 
to be anywhere, neither where Mahood is, nor where Worm is, nor 
where I am, it little matters thanks to what dispensation. The 
essential is to go on squirming forever at the end of the line, as 
long as there are waters and banks and ravening in heaven a sport- 
ing God to plague his creature, per pro his chosen shits. I’ve swal- 
lowed three hooks and am still hungry. Hence the howls. What a 
joy to know where one is, and where one will stay, without being 
there. Nothing to do but stretch out comfortably on the rack, in 
the blissful knowledge you are nobody for all eternity. A pity I 
should have to give tongue at the same time, it prevents it from 
bleeding in peace, licking the lips. Well I suppose one can’t have 
everything, so late ; n the proceedings. They’ll surely bring me to 
the surface one day or another and all then sink their differences 
and agree it was not worth while going to so much trouble for such 
a paltry kill, for such paltry killers. What silence then! And now 
let’s see ' T 'hat news there is of Worm, ju:t to please the old bastard. 
I’ll sor know if the other is still after me. But even if he isn’t 
nothing will come of it. Tie won’t catch me, I won’t be delivered 
from him, I mean Worm, 1 swear it, the other never caught me, I 
was never delivered from him, it’s past history, up to the present. I 
am he who will never be caught, never delivered, who crawls be- 
tween the thwarts, towards the new day that promises to be glorious. 



festooned with lifebelts, praying for rack and ruin. The third line 
falls plumb from the skies, it’s for her majesty my soul. I’d have 
hooked her on it long ago if I knew where to find her. That brings 
us up to four, gathered together. I knew it, there might be a hun- 
dred of us and still we’d lack the hundred and first, we’ll always 
be short of me. Worm, I nearly said Watt, Worm, what can I say 
of Worm, who hasn’t the wit to make himself plain, what to still 
this gnawing of termites in my Punch and Judy box, what that might 
not just as well be said of the other? Perhaps it's by trying to be 
Worm that I’ll finally succeed in being Mahood, 1 hadn’t thought 
of that. Theli all I’ll have to do is be Worm. Which no doubt I 
shall achieve by trying to be Jones. Then all I’ll have to do is be 
Jones. Stop, perhaps he’ll spare me that, have compassion and let 
me stop. The dawn will not be always rosy. Worm, Worm, it’s 
between the three of us now, and the devil take the hindmost. 
It seems to me besides that I must have already made, contrary 
to whc/i it seems to me I must have already said, some efforts in 
this direction. I should have noted them, if only in my head. But 
Worm 'cannot note. There at least is a first affirmation, I mean 
negation, on which to build. Worm cannot note. Can Mahood note? 
That’s it, weave, weave. Yes, it is the characteristic, among others, 
of Mahood to note, even if he does not always succeed in doing 
so, certain things, perhaps I should say all things, so as to turn 
them to account, for his governance. And indeed we have seen 
him do so, in the yard, in his jar, in a sense. I knew I had only 
to try and talk of Worm to begin talking of Mahood, with more 
felicity and understanding than ever. How close to me he suddenly 
seems, squinting up at the medals of the hippophagist Ducroix. 
It is the hour of the aperitif, already people pause, to read the 
menu. Charming hour of the day, particularly when, as sometimes 
happens, it is also that of, the setting sun whose last rays, raking 
the street from end to end, lend to my cenotaph an interminable 
shadow, astraddle of the gutter and the sidewalk. There was a time 
I used to contemplate it, when I was freer to turn my head than 
now, since being put in the collar. Then over there, far from me, 
I knew my head was lying, and people treading on it, and on my 
flies, which went on gliding none the less, prettily on the dark 



ground. And I saw the people coming towards me, all along my 
shadow, followed by long faithful trembling shadows. For some* 
times I confuse myself with my shadow, and sometimes don’t 
And sometimes I don’t confuse myself with my jar, and sometimes 
do. It all depends what mood we’re in. And often I went off look- 
ing without flinching until, ceasing to be, I ceased to see. Delicious 
instant truly, coinciding from time to time, as already observed, 
with that of the aperitif. But this joy, which for my part I should 
have thought harmless, and without danger for the public, is some- 
thing I have to go without now that the collar holds my face turned 
towards the railings, just above the menu, for it is important that 
the prospective customer should be able to compose his meal 
without the riffle of being run over. The meat, in this quarter, has 
a high reputation, and people come from a distance, from great 
distances, on purpose to relish it. Which having done they hurry 
away. By ten o’clock in the evening all is silent, as the g^jjive, as 
they say. Such is the fruit of my observations accumulated over a 
long period of years and constantly subjected to a process of in- 
duction. Here all is killing and eating. This evening there is tripe. 
It’s a winter dish, or a late autumn one. Soon Marguerite will 
come and light me up. She is late. Already more than one passer- 
by has flashed his lighter under my nose the better to decipher 
what I shall now describe, by way of elegant variation, as the bill 
of fare. Please God nothing has happened to my protectress. I 
shall not hear her coming, I shall not hear her steps, because of 
the snow. I spent all morning under my cover. When the first frosts 
come she makes nr. a nest of rags, well tucked in all round me, 
to preserve me from chills. It’s snug. I wonder will she powder 
my skull this evening, with her great puff. It’s her latest invention. 
She’s always thinking of something new, to relieve me. If only 
the earth would quake! The shambles swallow me up! Through 
the raP'iigs, at the end of a vista between two blocks of buildings, 
the sky appears to me. A T>ar moves over and shuts it off, whenever 
I please. If I could raise m/ head I’d see it streaming into the main 
of the firmament. What is there to add, to these particulars? The 
evening is still young, I know that, don’t let us go just yet, not yet 
say goodbye once more forever, to this heap of rubbish. What 



about trying to cogitate, while waiting for something intelligible to 
take place? Just this once. Almost immediately a thought presents 
itself, I should really concentrate more often. Quick let me record 
it before it vanishes. How is it the people do not notice me? I seem 
to exist for none but Madeleine. That a passer-by pressed for time, 
in headlong flight or hot pursuit, should have no eyes for me, that 
I can conceive. But the idlers come to hear the cattle’s bellows of 
pain and who, time obviously heavy on their hands, pace up and 
down waiting for the slaughter to begin? The hungry compelled 
by the position of the menu, and whether they like it or not, to 
post themseiVcs literally face to face with me, in the full blast of 
my breath? The children on their way to and from their play- 
grounds beyond the gates, all out for a bit of fun? It seems to 
me that even a human head, recently washed and with a few hairs 
on top, should be quite a popular curiosity in the position occu- 
pied by mine. Can it be out of discretion, and a reluctance to hurt, 
that they affect to be unaware of my existence? But this is a refine- 
ment of feeling which can hardly be attributed to the dogs that 
come jessing against my abode, apparently never doubting that it 
contains some flesh and bones. It follows therefore that I have no 
smell either. And yet if anyone should have a smell, it is I. How, 
under these conditions, can Mahood expect me to behave normally? 
The flies vouch for me, if you like, but how far? Would they not 
settle with equal appetite on a lump of cowshit? No, as long as 
this point is not cleared up to my satisfaction, or as long as I am 
not distinguished by some sense organs other than Madeleine’s, 
it will be impossible for me to believe, sufficiently to pursue my 
act, the things that arc told about me. I should further remark, 
with regard to this testimony which I consider indispensable, that 
I shall soon be in no fit condition to receive it, so greatly have my 
faculties declined, in recent times. It is obvious we have here a 
principle of change pregnant with possibilities. But say T succeed 
in dying, to adopt the most comfortable* hypothesis, without hav- 
ing been able to believe I ever lived, J know to my cost it is not 
that they wish for me. For it has happened to me many times 
already, without their having granted me as much as a brief sick- 
leave among the worms, before resurrecting me. But who knows, 



this time, what the future holds in store. That qua sentient and 
thinking being I should be going downhill fast is in any case an 
excellent thing. Perhaps some day some gentleman, chancing to 
pass my way with his sweetheart on his arm, at the precise moment 
when my last is favouring me with a final smack of the flight of 
time, will exclaim, loud enough for me to hear. Oh I say, this man 
is ailing, we must call an ambulance 1 Thus with a single stone, 
when all hope seemed lost, the two rare birds. I shall be dead, 
but I shall have lived. Unless one is to suppose him victim of a 
hallucination. Yes, to dispel all doubt his betrothed would need 
to say. You are right, my love, he looks as if he \^re going to 
throw up. Then I’d know for certain and giving up the ghost 
be born at last* to the sound perhaps of one of those hiccups which 
mar alas too often the solemnity of the passing. When Mahood I 
once knew a doctor who held that scientifically speaking the latest 
breath could only issue from the fundament and this therefore, 
rather than the mouth, the orifice to which the family shoiftd pre- 
sent the mirror, before opening the will. However this may be, and 
without dwelling further on these macabre details, it is certain I 
was grievously mistaken in supposing that death in itself could be 
regarded as evidence, or even a strong presumption, in support 
of a preliminary life. And I for my part have no longer the least 
desire to leave this world, in which they keep trying to foist me, 
without some kind of assurance that I was really there, such as a 
kick in the arse, for example, or a kiss, the nature of the attention 
is of little importance, provided I cannot be suspected of being its 
author. But let two third parties remark me, there, before my eyes, 
and I’ll take care of the rest. How all becomes clear and simple 
when one opens an eye on the within, having of course previously 
exposed it to the without, in order to benefit by the contrast. I 
should be sorry, though exhausted personally, to abandon prema- 
turely this rich vein. For I shall not come back to it in a hurry, 
ah no But enough of this cursed first person, it is really too red 
a herring, I’ll get out of ipy depth if I’m not careful. But what 
then is the subject? Mahood? No, not yet. Worm? Even less. Bah, 
any old pronoun will do, provided one sees through it. Matter of 
habit. To be adjusted later. Where was I? Ah yes, the bliss of what 



is clear and simple. The next thing is somehow to connect this with 
the unhappy Madeleine and her great goodness. Attentions such 
as hers, the pertinacity with which she continues to acknowledge 
me, do not these sufficiently attest my real presence here, in the 
Rue Brandon, never heard of in my island home? Would she rid 
me of my paltry excrements every Sunday, make me a nest at the 
approach of winter, protect me from the snow, change my sawdust, 
rub salt into my scalp, I hope I’m not forgetting anything, if I were 
not there? Would she have put me in a cang, raised me on a 
pedestal, hung me with lanterns, if she were not convinced of my 
substantiality? How happy I should be to submit to this evidence 
and to the execution upon me of the sentence it entails. Unfor- 
tunately I regard it as highly subject to caution, not to say unal- 
lowable. For what is one to think of the redoubled attentions she 
has been lavishing on me for some time past? How different from 
the serenity of our early relations, when I saw her only once a week. 
No, tKere is no getting away from it, this woman is losing faith 
in me. And she is trying to put off the moment when she must 
finally^confess her error by coming every few minutes to see if I 
am still more or less imaginable in situ. Similarly the belief in 
God. in all modesty be it said, is sometimes lost following a period 
of intensified zeal and observance, it appears. Here I pause to make 
a distinction (I must be still thinking). That the jar is really stand- 
ing where they say, all right, I wouldn’t dream of denying it, after 
all it’s none of my business, though its presence at such a place, 
about the reality of which I do not propose to quibble either, does 
not strike me as very credible. No, I merely doubt that I am in it. 
It is easier to raise a shrine than bring the deity down to haunt it. 
But what’s all this confusion now? That’s what comes of distinc- 
tions. No matter. She loves me. I’ve always felt it. She needs me. 
Her chop-house, her husband, her children if she has any, are not 
enough, there is in her a void that I alone can fill. It is not sur- 
prising then she should have visions. There was a time I thought 
she was perhaps a near relation, mother, sister, daughter, or such- 
like, perhaps even a wife, and that she was sequestrating me. That 
is to say Mahood, seeing how little impressed I was by his chief 
witness, whispered this suggestion in my ear, adding, I didn’t say 



anything. I must admit it is not so preposterous as it looks at first 
sight, it even accounts for certain bizarreries which had not yet 
struck me at the time of its formulation, among others my inexis- 
tence in the eyes of those who are not in the know, that is to say 
all mankind. But assuming I was being stowed away in a*public 
place, why go to such trouble to draw attention to my head, artisti- 
cally illuminated from dusk to midnight? You may of course retort 
that results are all that count. Another thing however. This woman 
has never spoken to me, to the best of my knowledge. If I have said 
anything to the contrary I was mistaken. If I say anything to the 
contrary again I shall be mistaken again. Unless I am mistaken 
now. Into the dossier with it in any case, in support of whatever 
thesis you faifcy. Never an affectionate word, never a reprimand. 
For fear of bringing me to the public notice? Or lest the illusion 
should be dispelled? I shall now sum up. The moment is at hand 
when my only believer must deny me. Nothing has happened. The 
lanterns have not been lit. Is it the same evening? Perhaps dinner 
is over. Perhaps Marguerite has come and gone, come again and 
gone again, without my having noticed her. Perhaps I have blazed 
with all my usual brilliance, for hours on end, all unsuspecting. 
And yet something has changed. It is not a night like other nights. 
Not because I see no stars, it is not often I sec a star, away up in 
the depths of the sliver of sky I command. Not because I don’t see 
anything, not even the railings, that has often happened. Not be- 
cause of the silence cither, it is a silent place, at night. And I 
am half-deaf. It is not the first time I have strained my ears in 
vain for the stables’ muffled sounds. All of a sudden a horse will 
neigh. Then I’ll know that nothing has changed. Or I’ll see the 
lantern of the watchman, swinging knee-high in the yard. I must 
be patient. It is cold, this morning it snowed. And yet I don’t 
feel the rold on my head. Perhaps I am still under the tarpaulin, 
perhap. she flung it over me again, for fear of more snow in the 
night, while I was medit8ting. But the sensation I so love, of the 
tarpaulin weighing on my 4iead, is lacking too. Has my head lost 
all feeling? Or did I have a stroke, while I was meditating? I don’t 
know. I shall be patient, asking no more questions, on the qui 
vive. Hours have passed, it must be day again, nothing has hap- 



pened, I hear nothing. I placed them before their responsibilities, 
perhaps they have let me go For this feeling of being entirely en- 
closed, and yet nothing touching me, is new. The sawdust no 
longer presses against my stumps, I don’t know where I end. I 
left it" yesterday, Mahood’s world, the street, the chop-house, the 
slaughter, the statue and, through the railings, the sky like a slate- 
pencil. I shall never hear again the lowing of the cattle, nor the 
clinking of the forks and glasses, nor the angry voices of the 
butchers, nor the litany of the dishes and the prices. There will 
never be another woman wanting me in vain to live, my shadow at 
evening will* not darken the ground. The stories of Mahood are 
ended. He has realised they could not be about me, he has aban- 
doned, it is I who win, who tried so hard to lose, in fcrdcr to please 
him, and be left in peace. Having won, shall I be left in peace? 
It doesn’t look like it, I seem to be going on talking. In any case 
all these suppositions are probably erroneous. I shall no doubt 
be launched again, girt with better arms, against the fortress of 
mortality. What is more important is that I should know what is 
going 5n now, in order to announce it, as my function requires. 
It must not be forgotten, sometimes I forget, that all is a question 
of voices. I say what I am told to say, in the hope that some day 
they will weary of talking at me. The trouble is I say it wrong, 
having no ear, no head, no memory. Now I seem to hear them 
say it is Worm’s voice beginning, I pass on the news, for what it 
is worth. Do they believe I believe it is I who am speaking? That’s 
theirs too. To make me believe I have an ego all my own, and can 
speak of it, as they of theirs. Another trap to snap me up among 
the living. It’s how to fall into it they can’t have explained to me 
sufficiently. They’ll never get the better of my stupidity. Why do 
they speak to me thus? Is it possible certain things change on their 
passage through me, in a way they can’t prevent? Do they believe 
I believe it is I who am asking these questions? That’s theirs too, 
a little distorted perhaps. I don’t say ifs not the right method. 
I don’t say they won’t catch me in the end. I wish they would, 
to be thrown away. It’s this hunt that is tiring, this unending being 
at bay. Images, they imagine that by piling on the images they’ll 
entice me in the end. Like the mother who whistles to prevent 



baby’s bladder from bursting, there’s another. They, yes, now 
they’re all in the same galley. Worm to play, his lead, I wish him 
a happy time. To think I thought he was against what they were 
trying to do with me! To think I saw in him, if not me, a step 
towards me! To get me to be he, the anti-Mahood, and then to 
say. But what am I doing but living, in a kind of way, the only 
possible way, that’s the combination. Or by the absurd prove 
to me that I am, the absurd of not being able. Unfortunately it 
is no help my being forewarned, I never remain so for long. In any 
case I wish him every success, in his courageous undertaking. And 
I am even prepared to collaborate with him, as with Mahood and 
Co., to the best of my ability, being unable to do otherwise, and 
knowing my ability. Worm, to say he does not know what he is, 
where he is, what is happening, is to underestimate him. What he 
does not know is that there is anything to know. His senses tell 
him nothing, nothing about himself, nothing about the rest, and this 
distinction is beyond him. Feeling nothing, knowing noth^ig, he 
exists nevertheless, but not for himself, for others, others conceive 
him and say. Worm is, since we conceive him, as if there could be 
no being but being conceived, if only by the beer. Others. One 
alone, then others. One alone turned towards the all-impotent, all- 
nescient, that haunts him, then others. Towards him whom he 
would nourish, he the famished one, and who, having nothing 
human, has nothing else, has nothing, is nothing. Come into the 
world unborn, abiding there unliving, with no hope of death, 
epicentre of joys, of griefs, of calm. Who seems the truest posses- 
sion, because the most unchanging. The one outside of life we 
always were in toe end, all ojr long vain life long. Who is not 
spared by the mad need to speak, to think, to know where one is, 
where one was, during the wild dream, up above, under the skies, 
venturing forth at night. The one ignorant of himself and silent, 
ignorant if his silence and silent, who could not be and gave up 
trying. Who crouches in ^heir midst who see themselves in him 
and in their eyes stares his unchanging stare. Thanks for these first 
notions. And it’s not all. He who seeks his true countenance, let 
him be of good cheer, he’ll find it, convulsed with anguish, the 
eyes out on stalks. He who longs to have lived, while he was alive. 



let him be reassured, life will tell him how. That’s all very comfort- 
ing. Worm, be Worm, you’ll see, it’s impossible, what a velvet 
glove, a little worn at the knuckles with all the hard hitting. Bah, 
let’s turn the black eye. And the starching begin at last, of this old 
clout f \so patiently pawed in vain, as limp and drooping still as the 
first day. But it is solely a question of voices, no other image is 
appropriate. Let it go through me at last, the right one, the last 
one, his who has none, by his own confession. Do they think they’ll 
lull me, with all this hemming and hawing? What can it matter to 
me, that. I succeed or fail? The undertaking is none of mine, if 
they want nle to succeed I’ll fail, and vice versa, so as not to be 
rid of my tormentors. Is there a single word of mine in all I say? 
No, I have no voice, in this matter I have none. That’s one of the 
reasons why I confused myself with Worm. But I have no reasons 
either, no reason. I’m like Worm, without voice or reason. I’m 
Worm, no, if I were Worm I wouldn’t know it, I wouldn’t say it, 
I wouldn’t say anything. I’d be Worm. But I don’t say anything, 
I don’t know anything, these voices are not mine, nor these 
thoughts, but the voices and thoughts of the devils who beset me. 
Who make me say that I can’t be Worm, the inexpugnable. Who 
make me say that I am he perhaps, as they are. Who make me say 
that since I can’t be he I must be he. That since I couldn’t be 
Mahood, as I might have been, I must be Worm, as I cannot be. 
But is it still they who say that when I have failed to be Worm 
I’ll be Mahood, automatically, on the rebound? As if, and a little 
silence, as if I were big enough now to take a hint and understand, 
certain things, but they’re wrong, T need explanations, of every- 
thing, and even then, I don’t understand, that’s how I’ll sicken 
them in the end, by my stupidity, so they say, to lull me, to make 
me think I’m stupider than I am. And is it still they who say that 
when I surprise them all ^and am Worm at last, then at last I’ll 
be Mahood, Worm proving to be Mahood the moment one is he? 
Ah if they could only begin, and do what they want with me, and 
succeed at last, in doing what they want with me. I’m ready to 
be whatever they want. I’m tired of being matter, matter, pawed 
and pummelled endlessly in vain. Or give me up and leave me 
lying in a heap, in such a heap that none would ever be found 



again to try and fashion it. But they are not of the same mind, 
they are all of the same kidney and yet they don’t know 
what they want to do with me, they don’t know where I 
am, or what I’m like, I'm like dust, they want to make a man 
out of dust. Listen to them, losing heart! That’s to lull me, till 
I imagine I hear myself saying, myself at last, to myself at last, 
that it can’t be they, speaking thus, that it can only be I, speaking 
thus. Ah if I could only find a voice of my own, in all this babble, 
it would be the end of their troubles, and of mine. That’s why 
there are all these little silences, to try and make me break them. 
They think I can’t bear silence, that some day, sdhiehow, my 
horror of silence will force me to break it. That’s why they are 
always leaving* off, to try and drive me to extremities. But they 
dare not be silent for long, the whole fabrication might collapse. 
It’s true I dread these gulfs they all bend over, straining their 
ears for the murmur of a man. It isn’t silence, it’s pitfalls, into 
which nothing would please me better than to fall, with thl little 
cry that might be taken for human, like a wounded wistiti, the 
first and last, and vanish for good and all, having squeaked? Well, 
if they ever succeed in getting me to give a voice to Worm, in a 
moment of euphory, perhaps I’ll succeed in making it mine, in a 
moment of confusion. There we have the stake. But they won’t. 
Did they ever get Mahood to speak? It seems to me not. I think 
Murphy spoke now and then, the others too perhaps, I don’t 
remember, but it was clumsily done, you could sec the ventriloquist. 
And now I feel it’s about to begin. They must consider me suffici- 
ently stupefied, with all their balls about being and existing. Yes, 
now that I’ve forgotten who Worm is, where he is, what he’s like. 
I’ll begin to be he. Anything rather than these college quips. 
Quick, a place. With no way in, no way out, a safe place. Not 
like Eden. And Worm inside. Feeling pothing, knowing nothing, 
capable ci nothing, wanting nothing. Until the instant he hears 
the sound that will never Stop. Then it’s the end. Worm no longer 
is. We know it, but we dcyi’t say it, we say it’s the awakening, 
the beginning of Worm, for now we must speak, and speak of 
Worm. It’s no longer he, but let us proceed as if it were still he, 
he at last, who hears, and trembles, and is delivered over, to 



affliction and the struggle to withstand it, the starting eye, the 
labouring mind. Yes, let us call that thing Worm, so as to exclaim, 
the sleight of hand accomplished. Oh look, life again, life every- 
where and always, the life that’s on every tongue, the only possible ! 
Poor*Worm, who thought he was different, there he is in the mad- 
house for life. Where am I? That’s my first question, after an age 
of listening. From it, when it hasn’t been answered. I’ll rebound 
towards others, of a more personal nature, much later. Perhaps 
I’ll even end up, before regaining my coma, by thinking of myself 
as living, technically speaking. But let us proceed with method. 
I shall do my best, as always, since I cannot do otherwise. 
I shall submit, more corpse-obliging than ever. I shall trans- 
mit the words as received, by the ear, or roared through a 
trumpet into the arsehole, in all their purity, and in the same order, 
as far as possible. This infinitesimal lag, between arrival and de- 
parture, this trifling delay in evacuation, is all I have to worry 
about* The truth about me will boil forth at last, scalding, provided 
of course they don’t start stuttering again. I listen. Enough pro- 
crastination. I’m Worm, that is to say I am no longer he, since I 
hear. But I’ll forget that in the heat of misery. I’ll forget I am no 
longer Worm, but a kind of tenth-rate Toussaint L’Ouverturc, that’s 
what they’re counting on. Worm then I catch this sound that will 
never stop, monotonous beyond words and yet not altogether 
devoid of a certain variety. At the end of I know not what eternity, 
they don’t say, this has sufficiently exasperated my intelligence for 
it to grasp that the nuisance is a voice and that the realm of nature, 
in which I flatter myself I have a foot already, has other noises to 
offer which are even more unpleasant and may be relied on to 
make themselves heard before long. Don’t tell me after that I had 
no predispositions for man’s estate. What a weary way since that 
first disaster, what nerves« ( torn from the heart of insentience, with 
the appertaining terror and the cerebellum on fire. It took him a 
long time to adapt himself to this cxcoAation. To realise pooh it’s 
nothing. A mere bagatelle. The common lot. A harmless joke. That 
will not last for ever. For me to gather while I may. They mentioned 
roses. I’ll smell them before I’m finished. Then they’ll put the 
accent on the thorns. What prodigious variety ! The thorns they’ll 



have to come and stick into me, as into their unfortunate Jesus. 
No, I need nobody, they’ll start sprouting under my arse, unaided, 
some day I feel myself soaring above my condition. A billybowl 
of thorns and the air perfume-laden. But not so fast. I still leave 
much to be desired, I have no technique, none. For example, in 
case you don’t believe me, I don’t yet know how to move, either 
locally, in relation to myself, or bodily, in relation to the rest of the 
shit. I don’t know how to want to, I want to in vain. What doesn’t 
come to me from me has come to the wrong address. Similarly! 
my understanding is not yet sufficiently well-oiled to function with- 
out the pressure of some critical circumstance, suchkis a violent 
pain felt for the first time. Some nice point in semantics, for ex- 
ample, of a n?*urc to accelerate the march of the hours, could not 
retain my attention. For others the time-abolishing joys of imper- 
sonal and disinterested speculation. I only think, if that is the name 
for this vertiginous panic as of hornets smoked out of their nest, 
once a certain degree of terror has been exceeded. Does thi^ mean 
I am less exposed to doing so, by the grace of inurement? To argue 
so would be to underestimate the extent of the repertory irf which 
I am plunged and which, it appears, is nothing compared to 
what is in store for me at the conclusion of the novitiate. These 
lights gleaming low afar, then rearing up in a blaze and sweeping 
down upon me, blinding, to devour me, are merely one example. 
My familiarity with them avails me nothing, they invariably give 
me to reflect. Each time, at the last moment, just as I begin to 
scorch, they go out, smoking and hissing, and yet each time my 
phlegm is shattered. And in my head, which 1 am beginning to 
locate to my satisfaction, above and a little to the right, the sparks 
spirt and dash themselves out against the walls. And sometimes 
I say to myself I am in a head, it’s terror makes me say it, and the 
longing to be in safety, surrounded on jail sides by massive bone. 
And I add that 1 am ioolish to let myself be frightened by another’s 
thoughts, lacerating my sky with harmless fires and assailing me 
with noises signifying nothing. But one thing at a time. And often 
all sleeps, as when I was really Worm, except this voice which has 
denatured me, which never stops, but often grows confused and 
falters, as if it were going to abandon me. But it is merely a passing 



weakness, unless it is done on purpose, to teach me hope. Strange 
thing, ruined as I am and still young in this abjection they have 
brought me to, I sometimes seem to remember what I was like when 
I was Worm, and not yet delivered into their hands. That’s to 
temptome into saying, I am indeed Worm after all, and into think- 
ing that after all he may have become the thing that I have become. 
But it doesn’t work. But they will devise another means, less 
childish, of getting me to admit, or pretend to admit, that I am 
he whose name they call me by, and no other. Or they’ll wait, 
counting on my weariness, as they press me ever harder, to wipe 
him from nry memory who cannot be brought to the pass they 
have brought me to, not to mention yesterday, not to mention to- 
morrow. And yet it seems to me I remember, and shall never 
forget, what I was like when I was he, before all became confused. 
But that is of course impossible, since Worm could not know what 
he was like, or who he was, that’s how they want me to reason. 
And il seems to me too, which is even more deplorable, that I 
could become Worm again, if I were left in peace. This transmis- 
sion is*really excellent. I wonder if it's going to get us somewhere. 
If only they would stop talking for nothing, pending their stopping 
everything. Nothing? That’s soon said. It is not for me to judge. 
What would I judge with? It's more provocation. They want me 
to lose patience and rush, suddenly beside myself, to their rescue. 
How transparent that all is! Sometimes I say to myself, they say 
to me. Worm says to me, the subject matters little, that my pur- 
veyors are more than one, four or five. But it’s more likely the 
same foul brute all the time, amusing himself pretending to be a 
many, varying his register, his tone, his accent and his drivel. 
Unless it comes natural to him. A bare and rusty hook I might 
accept. But all these titbits ! But there arc long silences too, at long 
intervals, during which, hearing nothing, I say nothing. That is to 
say I hear murmuring, if I listen hard enough, but it’s not for me, 
it’s for them alone, they are putting their heads together again. 
I don’t hear what they say, all I knowj is they are still there, they 
haven’t done, with me. They have moved a little aside. Secrets. 
Or if there is only one it is he alone, taking counsel with himself, 
muttering and chewing his moustache, getting ready for a fresh 



flow of inanity. To think of me eavesdropping, me, when silence 
falls ! Ah a nice state they have me in. But it’s with the hope there 
is no one left. But this is not the time to speak of that. Good. 
Of what is it the time to speak? Of Worm, at last. Good. We must 
first, to begin with, go back to his beginnings and then, to go on 
with, follow him patiently through the various stages, taking care 
to show their fatal concatenation, which have made him what I am. 
The whole to be tossed off with bravura. Then notes from day to 
day, until I collapse. And finally, to wind up with, song and dance 
of thanksgiving by victim, to celebrate his nativity. Please God 
nothing goes wrong. Mahood I couldn’t die. Worm*will I ever 
get born? It’s the same problem. But perhaps not the same person- 
age after all. Tihe scytheman will tell, it’s all one to him. But let 
us go back as planned, afterwards we’ll fall forward as projected. 
The reverse would be more like it. But not by much. Upstream, 
downstream, what matter, I begin by the ear, that’s the way to 
talk. Before that it was the night of time. Whereas ever since’ what 
radiance ! Now at least I know where I am, as far as my origins go. 
I mean my origins considered as a subject of conversation, that’s 
what counts. The moment one can say. Someone is on his way, all 
is well. Perhaps I have still a thousand years to go. No matter. 
He’s on his way. I begin to be familiar with the premises. I wonder 
if I couldn’t sneak out by the fundament, one morning, with the 
French breakfast. No, I can’t move, not yet. One minute in a skull 
and the next in a belly, strange, and the next nowhere in particular. 
Perhaps it’s Botal’s Foramen, when all about me palpitates and 
labours. Bait, bait. Can it be I have a friend among them, shaking 
his head in sorrow and saying nothing or only, from time to time. 
Enough, enough. One can be before beginning, they have set their 
hearts on that. They want me roots and all. This onward-rushing 
time is the same which used to sleep. And this silence they yelp 
against in tain and which one day will be restored, the same as 
in the past. Perhaps a littffe the worse for wear. Agreed, agreed, 
I who am on my way, words bellying out my sails, am also that 
unthinkable ancestor of whom nothing can be said. But perhaps 
I shall speak of him some day, and of the impenetrable age when 
I was he, some day when they fall silent, convinced at last I shall 



never get born, having failed to be conceived. Yes, perhaps I shall 
speak of him, for an instant, like the echo that mocks, before 
being restored to him, the one they could not part me from. And 
indeed they are weakening already, it’s perceptible. But it’s a feint, 
to hafre me rejoice without cause, after their fashion, and accept 
their terms, for the sake of peace at any price. But I can do nothing, 
that is what they seem to forget at each instant. I can’t rejoice 
and I can’t grieve, it's in vain they explained to me how it’s done, 
I never understood. And what terms? I don’t know what it is they 
want. I say what it is, but I don’t know. I emit sounds, better and 
better it scihis to me. If that’s not enough for them I can’t help 
it. If I speak of a head, referring to me, it’s because I hear it being 
spoken of. But why keep on saying the same thing? They hope 
things will change one day, it’s natural. That one day on my wind- 
pipe, or some other section of the conduit, a nice little abscess will 
form, with an idea inside, point of departure for a general infection. 
This (vould enable me to jubilate like a normal person, knowing 
why. And in no time I'd be a network of fistulae, bubbling with 
the blessed pus of reason. Ah if I were flesh and blood, as they are 
kind enough to posit, I wouldn’t say no, there might be something 
in their little idea. They say I suffer like true thinking flesh, but 
I’m sorry, I feel nothing. Mahood I felt a little, now and then, but 
what good did that do them? No, they'd be better advised to try 
something else. 1 felt the cang, the flies, the sawdust under my 
stumps, the tarpaulin on my skull, when they were mentioned to 
me. But can that be called a life which vanishes when the subject 
is changed? I don’t sec why not. But they must have decreed it 
can’t. They are too hard to please, they ask too much. They want 
me to have a pain in the neck, irrefragable proof of animation, 
while listening to talk of the heavens. They want me to have a mind 
where it is known once and for all that I have a pain in the neck, 
that flies are devouring me and that the heavens can do nothing 
to help. Let them scourge me without ceasing and evermore, more 
and more lustily (in view of the habitation factor), in the end I 
might begin to look as if I had grasped the meaning of life. They 
might even take a breather from time to time, without my ceasing 
to howl. For they would have warned me, before they started. 



You must howl, do you hear, otherwise it proves nothing. And 
worn out at last, or feeble with old age, and my cries having ceased 
for want of nourishment, they could pronounce me dead with every 
appearance of veracity. And without ever having had to move I 
would have gained my rest and heard them say, striking softly 
together their dry old hands as if to shake off the dust. He’ll never 
move again. No, that would be too simple. We must have the 
heavens and God knows what besides, lights, luminaries, the three- 
monthly ray of hope and the gleam of consolation. But let us close 
this parenthesis and, with a light heart, open the next. The noise. 
How long did I remain a pure ear? Up to the moritent when it 
could go on no longer, being too good to last, compared to what 
was coming. millions of different sounds, always the same, 
recurring without pause, are all one requires to sprout a head, a 
bud to begin with, finally huge, its function first to silence, then 
to extinguish when the eye joins in, and worse than the evil, its 
treasure-house. But no lingering on this thin ice. The meeflanism 
matters little, provided I succeed in saying, before I go deaf. It’s a 
voice, and it speaks to me. In inquiring, boldly, if it is not mine. 
In deciding, it doesn’t matter how, that I have none. In 
blowing darkly hot and cold, with concomitant identical sensa- 
tions. It’s a starting-point, he’s off, they don’t see me, but they hear 
me, panting, riveted, they don’t know I’m riveted. He knows they 
are words, he is not sure they are not his, that’s how it begins, with 
such a start no one ever looked back, one day he’ll make them his, 
when he thinks he is alone, far from all men, out of range of every 
voice, and come to the light of day they keep telling him of. Yes, 
I know they are words, there was a time I didn’t, as I still don’t 
know if they are mine. Their hopes are therefore founded. In their 
shoes I’d be content with my knowing what I know. I’d demand no 
more of m rt - than to know that what I hear is not the innocent and 
necessary sound of dumb things constrained to endure, but the 
terror-stricken babble of tTie condemned to silence. I would have 
pity, give me quittance, not*harry me into appearing my own des- 
troyer. But they are severe, greedy, no less, perhaps more, than 
when I was playing Mahood. Instead of drawing in their horns ! It’s 
true I have not spoken yet. In at one ear and incontinent out 



through the mouth, or the other ear, that’s possible too. No sense 
in multiplying the occasions of error. Two holes and me in the 
middle, slightly choked. Or a single one, entrance and exit, where 
the words swarm and jostle like ants, hasty, indifferent, bringing 
nothirig, taking nothing away, too light to leave a mark. I shall 
not say I again, ever again, it’s too farcical. I shall put in 
it’s place, whenever I hear it, the third person, if I think of it. 
Anything to please them. It will make no difference. Where I am 
there is no one but me, who am not. So much for that. Words, he 
says he knows they are words. But how can he know, who has never 
heard anythftig else? True. Not to mention other things, many 
others, to which the abundance of matter has unfortunately up to 
now prohibited the least allusion. For example, U? begin with, 
his breathing. There he is now with breath in his nostrils, 
it only remains for him to suffocate. The thorax rises and 
falls, the wear and tear are in full spring, the rot spreads down- 
wards/soon he’ll have legs, the possibility of crawling. More lies, 
he doesn’t breathe yet, he'll never breathe. Then what is this faint 
noise, as of air stealthily stirred, recalling the breath of life, to those 
whom it corrodes? It’s a bad example. But these lights that go out 
hissing? Is it not more likely a great crackle of laughter, at the 
sight of his terror and distress? To see him flooded with light, then 
suddenly plunged back in darkness, must strike them as irresistibly 
funny. But they have been there so long now, on every side, they 
may have made a hole in the wall, a little hole, to glue their eyes 
to, turn about. And these lights are perhaps those they shine upon 
him, from time to time, in order to observe the progress he is 
making. But this question of lights deserves to be treated in a 
section apart, it is so intriguing, and at length, composedly, and so 
it will be, at the first opportunity, when time is not so short, and 
the mind more composed., Resolution number twenty-three. And 
in the meantime the conclusion to be drawn? That the only noises 
Worm has had till now are those of mohths? Correct. Not forget- 
ting the groaning of the air beneath the burden. He’s coming, that’s 
the main thing. When on earth later on the storms rage, drowning 
momentarily the free expression of opinion, he’ll know what is 
afoot, that the end of the world is not at hand. No, in the place 



where he is he cannot learn, the head cannot work, he knows no 
more than on the first day, he merely hears, and suffers, uncompre- 
hending, that must be possible. A head has grown out of his ear, 
the better to enrage him, that must be it. The head is there,, glued 
to the ear, and in it nothing but rage, that’s all that matters, for 
the time being. It’s a transformer in which sound is turned, without 
the help of reason, to rage and terror, that’s all that is required, for 
the moment. The circumvolutionisation will be seen too later, when 
they get him out. Why then the human voice, rather than a hyena’s 
howls or the clanging of a hammer? Answer, so thjt the shock 
may not be too great, when the writhings of true lips meet his 
gaze. Between them they find a rejoinder to everything. And how 
they enjoy talking, they know there is no worse torment, for one 
not in the conversation. They are numerous, all round, holding 
hands perhaps, an endless chain, taking turns to talk. They wheel, 
in jerks, so that the voice always comes from the same charter. 
But often they all speak at once, they all say simultaneously the 
same thing exactly, but so perfectly together that one wouW take 
it for a single voice, a single mouth, if one did not know 
that God alone can fill the rose of the winds, without moving 
from his place. One, but not Worm, who says nothing, knows 
nothing, yet. Similarly turn about they benefit by the peep- 
hole, those who care to. While one speaks another peeps, 
the one no doubt whose voice is next due and whose remarks 
may possibly have reference to what he may possibly have seen, 
this depending on whether what he has seen has aroused his interest 
to the extent of appearing worthy of remark, even indirectly. But 
what hope has sustained them, all the time they have been thus 
employed? For it is difficult not to suppose them sustained by 
some form of hope. And what is the nature of the change they are 
on the !oo‘: out for, gluing one eye tef the hole and closing the 
other. They have no pedagogic purpose in view, that’s definite. 
There is no question of imparting to him any instruction whatso- 
ever, for the moment. This catechist’s tongue, honeyed and per- 
fidious, is the only one they know. Let him move, try and move, 
that’s all they ask, for the moment. No matter where he goes, 
being at the centre, he will go towards them. So he is at the centre. 



there is a clue of the highest interest, it matters little to what. 
They look, to see if he has stirred. He is nothing but a shapeless 
heap, without a face capable of reflecting the niceties of a torment, 
but the disposition of which, its greater or lesser degree of crouch 
and huddledness, is no doubt expressive, for specialists, and enables 
them to assess the chances of its suddenly making a bound, or 
dragging its coils faintly away, as if stricken to death. Somewhere 
in the heap an eye, a wild equine eye, always open, they must have 
an eye, they see him possessed of an eye. No matter where he goes 
he will go towards them, towards their song of triumph, when they 
know he has moved, or towards their sudden silence, when they 
know he has moved, to make him think he did well to move, or 
towards the voice growing softer, as if receding,* to make him 
think he is drawing away from them, but not yet far enough, 
whereas he is drawing nearer, nearer and nearer. No, he can’t 
think ^anything, can't judge of anything, but the kind of flesh he 
has is good enough, will try and go where peace seems to be, 
drop and lie when it suffers no more, or less, or can go no further. 
Then the voice will begin again, low at first, then louder, coming 
from the quarter they want him to retreat from, to make him think 
he is pursued and struggle on, towards them. In this way they’ll 
bring him to the wall, and even to the precise point where they 
have made other holes through which to pass their arms and seize 
him. How physical this all is! And then, unable to go any further, 
because of the obstacle, and unable to go any further in any case, 
and not needing to go any further for the moment, because of the 
great silence which has fallen, he will drop, assuming he had risen, 
but even a reptile can drop, after a long flight, the expression may 
be used without impropriety. He will drop, it will be his first 
corner, his first experience of the vertical support, the vertical 
shelter, reinforcing those V>f the ground. That must be something, 
while waiting for oblivion, to feel a prori and buckler, not only for 
one of one’s six planes, but for two, for the first time. But Worm 
will never know this joy but darkly, being less than a beast, before 
he is restored, more or less, to that state in which he was before 
the beginning of his prehistory. Then they will lay hold of him 
and gather him into their midst. For if they could make a small 


hole for the eye, then bigger ones for the arms, they can make one 
bigger still for the transit of Worm, from darkness to light. But 
what is the good of talking about what they will do as soon as 
Worm sets himself in motion, so as to gather him without fail into 
their midst, since he cannot set himself in motion, though he often 
desires to, if when speaking of him one may speak of desire, and 
one may not, one should not, but there it is, that is the way to 
speak of him, that is the way to speak to him, as if he were alive, 
as if he could understand, as if he could desire, even if it serves 
no purpose, and it serves none. And it is a blessing for him he 
cannot stir, even though he suffers because of it, for it would be to 
sign his life-warrant, to stir from where he is, in search of a little 
calm and something of the silence of old. But perhaps one day he 
will stir, the day when the little effort of the early stages, infinitely 
weak, will have become, by dint of repetition, a great effort, strong 
enough to tear him from where he lies. Or perhaps one da^ they 
will leave him in peace, letting go their hands, filling up the noles 
and departing, towards more profitable occupations, in Indian file. 
For a decision must be reached, the scales must tilt, to one side 
or the other. No, one can spend one’s life thus, unable to live, 
unable to bring to life, and die in vain, having done nothing, been 
nothing. It is strange they do not go and fetch him in his den, 
since the> seem to have access to it. They dare not, the air in the 
midst of which he lies is not for them, and yet they want him to 
breathe theirs. They could set a dog on him perhaps, with instruc- 
tions to drag him out. But no dog would survive there either, not for 
one second. With a long pole perhaps, with a hook at the end. But 
the place where he lies is vast, that’s interesting, he is far, too far 
for them to reach him even with the longest pole. That tiny blur, 
in the depths of the pit, is he. There he is now in a pit, no avenue 
will have Feen left unexplored. They say they see him, the blur 
is what they sec, they say the blur is he, perhaps it is. They say 
he hears them, they don’t know, perhaps he does, yes, he hears, 
nothing else is certain. Worm hears, though hear is not the word, 
but it will do, it will have to do. They look down upon him then, 
according to the latest news, he’ll have to climb to reach them. 
Bah, the latest news, the latest news is not the last. The slopes are 



gentle that meet where he lies, they flatten out under him, it is not 
a meeting, it is not a pit, that didn’t take long, soon we’ll have him 
perched on an eminence. They don’t know what to say, to be able 
to believe in him, what to invent, to be reassured, they see nothing, 
they see grey, like still smoke, unbroken, where he might be, if 
he must be somewhere, where they have decreed he is, into 
which they launch their voices, one after another, in the hope of 
dislodging him, hearing him stir, seeing him loom within reach of 
their gaffs, hooks, barbs, grapnels, saved at last, home at last. 
And now that’s enough about them, their usefulness is over, no, 
not yet. let them stay, they may still serve, stay where they are, 
turning in a ring, launching their voices, through the hole, there 
must be a hole for the voices too. But is it them 1 ' he hears? Are 
they really necessary that he may hear, they and kindred puppets? 
Enough concessions, to the spirit of geometry. He hears, that’s all 
abouj. it, he who is alone, and mute, lost in the smoke, it is not 
real smoke, there is no fire, no matter, strange hell that has no 
heating, no denizens, perhaps it’s paradise, perhaps it’s the light 
of paradise, and the solitude, and this voice the voice of the blest 
interceding invisible, for the living, for the dead, all is possible. It 
isn’t the earth, that’s all that counts, it can’t be the earth, it can’t 
be a hole in the earth, inhabited by Worm alone, or by others if 
you like, huddled in a heap like him, mute, immovable, and this 
voice the voice of those who mourn them, envy them, call on 
them and forget them, that would account for its incoherence, all 
is possible. Yes, so much the worse, he knows it is a voice, how is 
not known, nothing is known, he understands nothing it says, just 
a little, almost nothing, it’s inexplicable, but it’s necessary, it’s 
preferable, that he should understand just a little, almost nothing, 
like a dog that always gets the same filth flung to it, the same 
orders, the same threats, vhe same cajoleries. That settles that, the 
end is in sight. But the eye, let’s leave him his eye too, it’s to see 
with, this great wild black and white eye, moist, it’s to weep with, 
it’s to practise with, before he goes td Killarncy. What does he do 
with it, he does nothing with it, the eye stays open, it’s an eye 
without lids, no need for lids here, where nothing happens, or so 
little, if he could blink he might miss the odd sight, if he could 



close it, the kind he is, he’d never open it again. Tears gush from 
it practically without ceasing, why is not known, nothing is known, 
whether it’s with rage, or whether it’s with grief, the fact is there, 
perhaps it’s the voice that makes it weep, with rage, or some other 
passion, or at having to see, from time to time, some sight or other, 
perhaps that’s it, perhaps he weeps in order not to see, though it 
seems difficult to credit him with an initiative of this complexity. 
The rascal, he’s getting humanised, he’s going to lose if he doesn’t 
watch out, if he doesn’t take care, and with what could he take care, 
with what could he form the faintest conception of the condition 
they are decoying him into, with their ears, their eye?, their tears 
and a brainpan where anything may happen. That’s his strength, 
his only strength, that he understands nothing, can’t take thought, 
doesn’t know what they want, doesn’t know they are there, feels 
nothing, ah but just a moment, he feels, he suffers, the noise makes 
him suffer, and he knows, he knows it’s a voice, and he under- 
stands, a few expressions here and there, a few intonations; ah it 
looks bad, bad, no, perhaps not, for it’s they describe hiip thus, 
without knowing, thus because they need him thus, perhaps he 
hears nothing, suffers nothing, and this eye, more mere imagination. 
He hears, true, though it’s they again who say it, but this can’t 
be denied, this is better not denied. Worm hears, that’s all can be 
said for certain, whereas there was a time he didn’t, the same Worm, 
according to them, he has therefore changed, that’s grave, gravid, 
who knows to what lengths he may be carried, no, he can be relied 
on. The eye too, of course, is there to put him to flight, make him 
take fright, badly enough to break his bonds, they call that bonds, 
they want to deliver him, ah mother of God, the things one has 
to listen to, perhaps it’s tears of mirth. Well, no matter, let’s drive 
on now to the end of the joke, we must be nearly there, and see 
what they ‘iave to offer him, in the way of bugaboos. Who, we? 
Don’t all speak at once, there’s no sense in that either. All will come 
right, later on in the evening, everyone gone and silence restored. In 
the meantime no sense in bftkering about pronouns and other parts 
of blather. The subject doesn’t matter, there is none. Worm being 
in the singular, as it turned out, they are in the plural, to avoid 
confusion, confusion is better avoided, pending the great confound- 



ing. Perhaps there is only one of them, one would do the trick 
just as well, but he might get mixed up with his victim, that would 
be abominable, downright masturbation. We’re getting on. Nothing 
much then in the way of sights for sore eyes. But who can be sure 
who tias not been there, has not lived there, they call that living, 
for them the spark is present, ready to burst into flame, all it needs 
is preaching on, to become a living torch, screams included. Then 
they may go silent, without having to fear an embarrassing silence, 
when steps are heard on graves as the saying is, genuine hell. 
Decidedly this eye is hard of hearing. Noises travel, traverse walls, 
but may th? same be said of appearances? By no means, generally 
speaking. But the present case is rather special. But what appear- 
ances, it is always well to try ahd find out what one h talking about, 
even at the risk of being deceived. This grey to begin with, meant 
to be depressing no doubt. And yet there is yellow in it, pink too 
apparently, it’s a nice grew of the kind recommended as going with 
everything, urinous and w'arm. In it the eye can see, otherwise why 
the eye, but dimly, that’s right, no superfluous particulars, later 
to be controverted. A man would wonder where his kingdom ended, 
his eye strive to penetrate the gloom, and he crave for a stick, an 
arm, fingers apt to grasp and then release, at the right moment, a 
stone, stones, or for the power to utter a cry and wait, counting the 
seconds, for it to come back to him, and suffer, certainly, at having 
neither voice nor other missile, nor limbs submissive to him, bend- 
ing and unbending at the word of command, and perhaps even 
regret being a man, under such conditions, that is to say a head 
abandoned to its ancient solitary resources. But Worm suffers only 
from the noise which prevents him from being what he was before, 
admire the nuance. If it’s the same Worm, and they have set their 
hearts on it. And if it is not it makes no difference, he suffers as 
he has always suffered, from this noise that prevents nothing, that 
must be feasible. In any case this grey can hardly be said to add 
to his misery, brightness would be better suited for that purpose, 
since he cannot close his eye. He cannbt avert it either, nor lower it. 

nor lift it up, it remains trained on the same tiny field, a stranger 
forever to the boons and blessings of accommodation. But perhaps 
one day brightness will come, little by little, or rapidly, or in a 



sudden flood, and then it is hard to see how Worm could stay, 
and it is also hard to see how he could go. But impossible situa- 
tions cannot be prolonged, unduly, the fact is well known, either 
they disperse, or else they turn out to be possible after all, it’s 
only to be expected, not to mention other possibilities. Let there 
then be light, it will not necessarily be disastrous. Or let there be 
none, we’ll manage without it. But these lights, in the plural, which 
rear aloft, swell, sweep down and go out hissing, reminding one of 
the naja, perhaps the moment has come to throw them into the 
balance and have done with this tedious equipoise, at last. No, 
the moment has not yet come, to do that. Ha. None of your hoping 
here, that would spoil everything. Let others hope for him, outside, 
in the cool, ift the light, if they have a wish to, or if they are 
obliged to, or if they are paid to, yes, they must be paid to hope, 
they hope nothing, they hope things will continue as they are, 
it’s a soft job, their thoughts wander as they call on Jude, it’s 
praying they arc, praying for Worm, praying to Worm, tahave 
pity, pity on them, pity on Worm, they call that pity, merciful 
God, the things one has to put up with, fortunately it all means 
nothing to him. Currish obscurity, to thy kennel, hell-hound ! Grey, 
What else? Calm, calm, there must be something else, to go with 
this grey, which goes with everything. There must be something 
of everything here, as in every world, a little of everything. 
Mighty little, it seems. Beside the point in any case. What balls 
is going on before this impotent crystalline, that’s all that needs 
to be imagined. A face, how encouraging that would be, if it 
could be a face, every now and then, always the same, methodi- 
cally varying its expressions, doggedly demonstrating all a true 
face can do, without every ceasing to be recognisable as such, 
passing from unmixed joy to the sullen fixity of marble, via the 
most characte ristic shades of disenchantment, how pleasant that 
would be. Worth ten of Saint Anthony’s pig’s arse. Passing by at 
the right distance, the right level, say once a month, that’s not 
exorbitant, full face and profile, like criminals. It might even 
pause, open its mouth, raises its eyebrows, bless its soul, stutter, 
mutter, howl, groan and finally shut up, the chaps clenched to 
cracking point, or fallen, to let the dribble out. That would be 



nice. A presence at last. A visitor, faithful, with his visiting-day, 
his visiting-hour, never staying too long, it would be wearisome, or 
too little, it would not be enough, but just the necessary time for 
hope to be born, grow, languish and die, say five minutes. And 
even Should the notion of time dawn on his darkness, at this punc- 
tual image of the countenance everlasting, who could blame him? 
Involving very naturally that of space, they have taken to going 
hand in hand, in certain quarters, it’s safer. And the game would 
be won, lost and won, he’d be somehow suddenly among us, among 
the rendezvous, and people saying. Look at old Worm, waiting 
for his sweetheart, and the flowers, look at the flowers, you’d think 
he was asleep, you know old Worm, waiting for his love, and the 
daisies, look at the daisies, you’d think he was deSd. That would 
be worth seeing. Fortunately it’s all a dream. For here there is 
no face, nor anything resembling one, nothing to reflect the joy 
of living and succedanea, nothing for it but to try something else. 
Some^'simple thing, a box, a piece of wood, to come to rest before 
him fpr an instant, once a year, once every two years, a ball, 
revolving one knows not how about one knows not what, about 
him, every two years, every three years, frequency unimportant 
in the early stages, without stopping, it needn’t stop, that would 
be better than nothing, he’d hear it approaching, hear it receding, 
it would be an event, he might learn to count, the minutes, the 
hours, to fret, be brave, have patience, lose patience, turn his head, 
roll his eye, a big stone, and faithful, that would be better than 
nothing, pending the hearts of flesh. And even should his start 
off, his heart that is, on its waltz, in his ear. tralatralay pom pom. 
again, tralatralay pom pom, re mi re do bang bang, who could 
reprehend him? Unfortunately we must stick to the facts, for what 
else is there, to stick to, to cling to, when all founders, but the 
facts, when there are anyy still floating, within reach of the heart, 
happy expression that, of the heart crying out. The facts are there, 
the facts are there, and then more calmly, when the danger is past, 
the continuation, namely, in the case* before us. Here there is no 
wood, nor any stone, or if there is, the facts are there, it’s as if 
there wasn’t, the facts are there, no vegetables, no minerals, only 
Worm, kingdom unknown. Worm is there, as it were, as it were. 


But not too fast, it’s too soon, to return, to where I am, empty- 
handed, in triumph, to where I’m waiting, calm, passably calm, 
knowing, thinking I know, that nothing has befallen me, nothing 
will befall me, nothing good, nothing bad, nothing to be the death 
of me, nothing to be the life of me, it would be premature.*I see 
me, I see my place, there is nothing to show it, nothing to dis- 
tinguish it, from all the other places, they are mine, all mine, if 
I wish, I wish none but mine, there is nothing to mark it, I am 
there so little, I see it, I feel it round me, it enfolds me, it covers 
me. if only this voice would stop, for a second, it would seem long 
to me, a second of silence. I’d listen. I’d know if it vUs going to 
start again, or if it was stilled for ever, what would I know it 
with. I’d know. And I’d keep on listening, to try and advance in 
their good graces, keep my place in their favour, and be ready, in 
case they judged fit to take me in hand again, or I’d stop, stop 
listening, is it possible that one day I shall stop listening, with- 
out having to fear the worst, namely, I don’t know, whs| can 
be worse than this, a woman’s voice perhaps, I hadn’t thought of 
that, they might engage a soprano. But let us leave these dreams 
and try again. If only I knew what they want, they want me to be 
Worm, but I was, I was, what’s wrong, I was, but ill, it must be 
that, it can only be that, what else can it be, but that, I didn’t 
report in the light, the light of day, in their midst, to hear them 
say. Didn’t we tell you you were alive and kicking? I have endured, 
that must be it, I shouldn’t have endured, but I feel nothing, 
yes, yes, this voice, I have endured it, I didn’t fly from it, I should 
have fled. Worm should have fled, but where, how, he’s riveted. 
Worm should have dragged himself away, no matter where, to- 
wards them, towards the azure, but how could he, he can’t 6tir, 
it needn’t be bonds, there are no bonds here, it’s as if he were rooted, 
that’s bonds if* you like, the earth would have to quake, it isn’t 
earth, one doesn’t know what it is, it’s like sargasso, no, it’s like 
molasses, no, no matter, aif eruption is what’s needed, to spew him 
into the light. But what calm, apart from the discourse, not a 
breath, it’s suspicious, the calm that precedes life, no no, not all 
this time, it’s like slime, paradise, it would be paradise, but for this 
noise, it’s life trying to get in, no, trying to get him out, or little 



bubbles bursting all around, no, there’s no air here, air is to make 
you choke, light is to close your eyes, that’s where he must go, 
where it’s never dark, but here it’s never dark either, yes, here 
it’s dark, it’s they who make this grey, with their lamps. When 
they £o, when they go silent, it will be dark, not a sound, not a 
glimmer, but they’ll never go, yes, they’ll go, they’ll go silent per- 
haps and go, one day, one evening, slowly, sadly, in Indian file, 
casting long shadows, towards their master, who will punish them, 
or who will spare them, what else is there, up above, for those 
who lose, punishment, pardon, so they say. What have you done 
with your ifiaterial? We have left it behind. But commanded to 
say whether yes or no they filled up the holes, have you filled 
up the holes yes or no, they will say yes and no«. or some yes, 
others no, at the same time, not knowing what answer the master 
wants, to his question. But both are defendablc, both yes and no, 
for they filled up the holes, if you like, and if you don’t like they 
didn’t^ for they didn’t know what to do, on departing, whether 
to fill-up the holes or, on the contrary, leave them gaping wide. 
So they fixed their lamps in the holes, their long lamps, to prevent 
them from closing of themselves, it’s like potter’s clay, their power- 
ful lamps, lit and trained on the within, to make him think they 
are still there, notwithstanding the silence, or to make him think 
the grey is natural, or to make him go on suffering, for he does 
not suffer from the noise alone, he suffers from the grey too, from 
the light, he must, it’s preferable, or to make it possible for them to 
come back, if the master commands them to, without his knowing 
they have gone, as if he could know, or for no other reason than 
their ignorance of what to do, whether to fill up the holes or let 
them fill up of themselves, it’s like shit, there we have it at last, 
there it is at last, the right word, one has only to seek, seek in 
vain, to be sure of finding in the end, it’s a question of elimina- 
tion. Enough now about holes. The grey means nothing, the grey 
silence is not necessarily a mere lull, to* be got through somehow, 
it may be final, or it may not. But tht- lamps unattended will not 
bum on forever, on the contrary, they will go out, little by little, 
without attendants to charge them anew, and go silent, in the end. 
Then it will be black. But it is with the black as with the grey. 



the black proves nothing either, as to the nature of the silence 
which it inspissates (as it were). For they may come back, long 
after the lights are spent, having pleaded for years in vain before 
the master and failed to convince him there is nothing to be done, 
with Worm, for Worm. Then all will start over again, obviously. 
So it will never be known, Worm will never know, let the silence 
be black, or let it be grey, it can never be known, as long as it 
lasts, whether it is final, or whether it is a mere lull, and what a 
lull, when he must listen, strain his ears for the murmurs of 
olden silences, hold himself ready for the next instalment, under 
pain of supplementary thunderbolts. But Worm musUnot be con- 
fused with another. Though this has no importance, as it happens. 
For he who bfis once had to listen will listen always, whether he 
knows he will never hear anything again, or whether he does not. 
In other words, they like other words, no doubt about it, silence 
once broken will never again be whole. Is there then no hope? 
Good gracious, no, heavens, what an idea! Just a faint or|p per- 
haps. but which will never serve. But one forgets. And if there is 
only one he will depart all alone, towards his master, and His long 
shadow will follow him, across the desert, it’s a desert, that’s 
news. Worm will see the light in a desert, the light of day, the 
desert day, the day they catch him, it’s the same as every- 
where else, they say not, they say it’s purer, clearer, fat 
lot of difference that will make, oh it is not necessarily the Sahara, 
or Gobi, there are others, it’s the ozone that matters, in the begin- 
ning, yes indeed, in the end too, it sterilises. But this livid eye, 
what use is it to him? To see the light, they call that seeing, no 
objection, since it causes him suffering, they call that suffering, 
they know how to cause suffering, the master explained to them. 
Do this, do that, you’ll see him squirm, you’ll hear him weep. He 
weeps, it’s a fact, oh not a very firm pne, to be made the most 
of quick. As for the squirming, nothing doing. But there is always 
this to be said, things are bnly beginning, though long since begun, 
they will not lose heart, they’ll remember the motto of William 
the Silent and keep on talking, that’s what they’re paid for, not 
for results. Enough about them, they can speak of nothing else, 
all is theirs, but for them there would be nothing, not even Worm, 



he’s an idea they have, a word they use, when speaking of them, 
enough about them. But this grey, this light, if he could escape 
from this light, which makes him suffer, is it not obvious it would 
make him suffer more and more, in whatever direction he went, 
since He is at the centre, and drive him back there, after forty or fifty 
vain excursions? No, that is not obvious. For it is obvious the light 
would lessen as he went towards it, they would see to that, to 
make him think he was on the right road and so bring him to the 
wall. Then the blaze, the capture and the paean. As long as he 
suffers there’s hope, even though they need none, to make him 
suffer. But hkw can they know he suffers? Do they see him? They 
say they do. But it’s impossible. Hear him? Certainly not. He 
makes no noise, A little with his whining perhaps In any case 
they are easy, rightly or wrongly, in their minds, he suffers, and 
thanks to them. Oh not yet sufficiently, but gently does it, an 
excess of severity at this stage might darken his understanding 
foreve^. Another thing. The problem is delicate. The dulling effect 
of habit, how do they deal with that? They can combat it of course, 
raising* the voice, increasing the light. But suppose, instead of 
suffering less, as time flies, he continues to suffer as much, pre- 
cisely, as the first day. That must be possible. And but suppose, 
instead of suffering less than the first day, or no less, he suffers 
more and more, as time flies, and the metamorphosis is accom- 
plished, of unchanging future into unchangeable past. Eh? Another 
thing, but of a different order. The affair is thorny. Is not a uniform 
suffering preferable to one which, by its ups and downs, is liable 
at certain moments to encourage the view that perhaps after all 
it is not eternal? That must depend on the object pursued. Namely? 
A little fit of impatience, on the part of the patient. Thank you. 
That is the immediate object. Afterwards there will be others. 
Afterwards he’ll be given, lessons in keeping quiet. But for the 
moment let him toss and turn at least, roll on the ground, damn 
it all. since there’s no other remedy, anything at all, to relieve the 
monotony, damn it all, look at the burnt alive, they don’t have 
to be told, when not lashed to the stake, to rush about in every 
direction, without method, crackling, in search of a little cool, 
there are even those whose sang-froid is such that they throw 



themselves out of the window. No one asks him to go to those 
lengths. But simply to discover, without further assistance from 
without, the alleviations of flight from self, that’s all, he won’t go 
far, he needn’t go far. Simply to find within himself a palliative 
for what he is, through no fault of his own. Simply to imitate 
the hussar who gets up on a chair the better to adjust the plume 
of his busby, it’s the least he might do. No one asks him to think, 
simply to suffer, always in the same way, without hope of diminu- 
tion, without hope of dissolution, it’s no more complicated than 
that. No need to think in order to despair. Agreed then on 
monotony, it’s more stimulating. But how can it be .insured? No 
matter, no matter how, they are doing the best they can, with the 
miserable mejns at their disposal, a voice, a little light, poor 
devils, that’s what they’re paid for, they say, No sign of harden- 
ing, no sign of softening, impossible to say, no matter, it’s a good 
average, we have only to continue, one day he’ll understand, one 
day he’ll thrill, the little spasm will come, a change in tlge eye, 
and cast him up among us. To be on the watch and never sight, 
to listen for the moan that never comes, that’s not a lift? worth 
living either. And yet it’s theirs. He is there, says the master, 
somewhere, do as I tell you, bring him before me, he’s lacking 
to my glory. But one last effort, one more, that’s the spirit, that’s 
the way, each time as if it were the last, the only way not to lose 
ground. A great gulp of stinking air and off we go, we’ll be back 
in a second. Forward! That’s soon said. But where is forward? 
And why? The dirty pack of fake maniacs, they know I don’t 
know, they know I forget all they say as fast as they say it. These 
little pauses are a poor trick too. When they go silent, so do I. 
A second later. I’m a second behind them, I remember a second, 
for the space of a second, that is to say long enough to blurt it out. 
as received, v’hile receiving the next, which is none of my business 
either. Not an instant I can call my own and they want me to know 
where next to turn. Ah I know what I’d know, and where I’d turn, if 
I had a head that worked, tet them tell me again what I’m doing, 
if they want me to look as if I were doing it. This tone, these 
words, to make me think they come from me. Always the same 
old dodges, ever since they took it into their heads that my exis- 



tence is only a question of time. I think I must have blackouts, 
whole sentences lost, no, not whole. Perhaps I’ve missed the key- 
word to the whole business. I wouldn’t have understood it, but I 
would have said it, that’s all that’s required, it would have spoken 
in my*>favour, next time they judge me, well well, so they judge 
me from time to time, they neglect nothing. Perhaps one day I’ll 
know, say, what I’m guilty of. How many of us are there altogether, 
finally? And who is holding forth at the moment? And to whom? 
And about what? These are futile teasers. Let them put into my 
mouth at last the words that will save me, damn me, and no more 
talk about ifc no more talk about anything. But this is my punish- 
ment, my crime is my punishment, that’s what they judge me for, 
I expiate vilely, like a pig, dumb, uncomprehending, possessed 
of no utterance but theirs. They’ll clap me in a dungeon. I’m in a 
dungeon. I’ve always been in a dungeon, I hear everything, every 
word they say, it’s the only sound, as if I were speaking, to myself, 
out lojr.d, in the end you don’t know any more, a voice that never 
stops, where it’s coming from. Perhaps there are others here, with 
me. it’S dark, very properly, it is not necessarily an oubliette for 
one, or one other, perhaps I have a companion in misfortune, 
given to talking, or condemned to talk, you know, any old thing, 
out loud, without ceasing, but I think not, what do I think not, 
that I have a companion in misfortune, that’s it, that would surprise 
me, they loathe me, but not to that extent, they say that would 
surprise me. I must doze off from time to time, with open eyes, 
and yet nothing changes, ever. Gaps, there have always been gaps, 
it’s the voice stopping, it’s the voice failing to carry to me, what 
can it matter, perhaps it’s important, the result is the same, one 
perhaps that doesn’t count, exceptionally. They shut me up here, 
now they’re trying to get me out, to shut me up somewhere else, 
or to let me go, they are capable of putting me out just to see what 
I’d do. Standing with their backs to the door, their arms folded, 
their legs crossed, they would observe nib. Or all they did was to 
find me here, on their arrival, or long' afterwards. They are not 
interested in me, only in the place, they want the place for one 
of their own. What can one do but speculate, speculate, until one 
hits on the happy speculation? When all goes silent, and comes to 



an end, it will be because the words have been said, those it 
behoved to say, no need to know which, no means of knowing 
which, they’ll be there somewhere, in the heap, in the torrent, 
not necessarily the last, they have to be ratified by the proper 
authority, that takes time, he’s far from here, they bring him the 
verbatim report of the proceedings, once in a way, he knows the 
words that count, it’s he who chose them, in the meantime the 
voice continues, while the messenger goes towards the master, 
and while the master examines the report, and while the messenger 
comes back with the verdict, the words continue, the wrong words, 
until the order arrives, to stop everything or to co,itinue every- 
thing, no, superfluous, everything will continue automatically, until 
the order arrives, to stop everything. Perhaps they are somewhere 
there, the words that count, in what has just been said, the words 
it behoved to say, they need not be more than a few. They say 
they, speaking of them, to make me think it is I who am speaking. 
Or I say they, speaking of God knows what, to make nua think 
it is not I who am speaking. Or rather there is silence, from the 
moment the messenger departs until he returns with his orders, 
namely. Continue. For there are long silences from time to time, 
truces, and then I hear them whispering, some perhaps whispering. 
It’s over, this time we’ve hit the mark, and others. We’ll have to 
go through it all again, in other words, or in the same words, 
arranged differently. Respite then, once in a way, if one can call 
that respite, when one waits to know one’s fate, saying. Perhaps 
it’s not that at all, and saying. Where do these words come from 
that pour out of my mouth, and what do they mean, no, saying 
nothing, for the words don’t carry any more, if one can call that 
waiting, when there’s no reason for it, and one listens, that stet, 
without reason, as one has always listened, because one day listen- 
ing began, because it cannot stop, that’s not a reason, if one can 
call that respite. But what’s all this about not being able to die, 
live, be born, that must Ifeve some bearing, all this about staying 
where you are, dying, livlhg, being born, unable to go forward 
or back, not knowing where you came from, or where you are, 
or where you’re going, or that it’s possible to be elsewhere, to be 
otherwise, supposing nothing, asking yourself nothing, you can’t. 



you’re there, you don’t know who, you don’t know where, the 
thing stays where it is, nothing changes, within it, outside it, 
apparently, apparently. And there is nothing for it but to wait for 
the end, nothing but for the end to come, and at the end all will 
be th» same, at the end at last perhaps all the same as before, 
as all that livelong time when there was nothing for it but to get 
to the end, or fly from it, or wait for it, trembling or not, resigned 
or not, the nuisance of doing over, and of being, same thing, for 
one who could never do, never be. Ah if only this voice could 
stop, this meaningless voice which prevents you from being nothing, 
just barely prevents you from being nothing and nowhere, just 
enough to keep alight this little yellow flame feebly darting from 
side to side, panting, as if straining to tear itself f,tom its wick, 
it should never have been lit, or it should never have been fed, or 
it should have been put out, put out, it should have been let go 
out. Regretting, that’s what helps you on, that’s what gets you 
on towards the end of the world, regretting what is, regretting what 
was, its not the same thing, yes, it’s the same, you don’t know, 
what’s happening, what’s happened, perhaps it’s the same, the same 
regrets, that’s what transports you, towards the end of regretting. 
But a little animation now for pity’s sake, it’s now or never, a 
little spirit, it won’t produce anything, not a budge, that doesn’t 
matter, we are not tradesmen, and one never knows, does one, 
no. Perhaps Mahood will emerge from his urn and make his way 
towards Montmartre, on his belly, singing, I come, I come, my 
heart’s delight. Or Worm, good old Worm, perhaps he won’t be 
able to bear any more, of not being able, of not being able to bear 
any more, it would be a pity to miss that. If I were they I’d set 
the rats on him, water-rats, sewer-rats, they’re the best, oh not too 
many, a dozen to a dozen and a half, that might help him make 
up his mind, to get going, and what an introduction, to his future 
attributes. No, it would be' in vain, a rat wouldn’t survive there, 
not one second. But let’s have another ’squint at his eye, that’s 
the place to look. A little raw perhapj, the white, with all the 
pissing, there’s a gleam at last, one hesitates to say of intelligence. 
Apart from that the same as ever. A trifle more prominent per- 
haps, more paraphimotically globose. It seems to listen. It’s weak- 



ening, that’s unavoidable, glazing, it’s high time to offer it some- 
thing to bring it clean out of its socket, in ten years it will be too 
late. The mistake they make of course is to speak of him as if 
he really existed, in a specific place, whereas the whole thing is 
no more than a project for the moment. But let them blundef on to 
the end of their folly, then they can go into the question again, 
taking care not to compromise themselves by the use of terms, 
if not of notions, accessible to the understanding. In the same way 
the case of Mahood has been insufficiently studied. One may ex- 
perience the need of such creatures, assuming they are twain, and 
even the presentiment of their possible reality, without all these 
blind and surly disquisitions. A little more reflection would have 
shown them that the hour to speak, far from having struck, might 
never strike. But they are compelled to speak, it is forbidden them 
to stop. Why then not speak of something else, something the 
existence of which seems in a certain measure already established, 
on the subject of which one may chatter away without b|ishing 
purple every thirty or forty thousand words at having to jmploy 
such locutions and which moreover, supreme guarantee, has caused 
the glibbest tongues to wag from time immemorial, it would be 
preferable. It’s the old story, they want to be entertained, while 
doing their dirty work, no, not entertained, soothed, no. that’s 
not it either, solaced, no, even less, no matter, with the result they 
achieve nothing, neither what they want, without knowing exactly 
what, nor the obscure infamy to which they are committed, the 
old story. You wouldn’t think it was the same gang as a moment 
ago. or would you? What can you expect, they don’t know who 
they are either, nor where they are, nor what they’re doing, nor 
why everything is going so badly, so abominably badly, that must 
be it. So they build up hypotheses that collapse on top of one 
another, it’s mman, a lobster couldn’t do it. Ah a nice mess we’re 
in, the whole pack of us,, is it possible we’re all in the same boat, 
no, we’re in a nice mess each one in his own peculiar way. I my- 
self have been scandalously bungled, they must be beginning to 
realise it, I on whom all dangles, better still, about whom, much 
better, all turns, dizzily, yes yes, don’t protest, all spins, it’s a head. 
I’m in a head, what an illumination, sssst, pissed on out of hand. 

3 % 


Ah this blind voice, and these moments of held breath when all 
listen wildly, and the voice that begins to fumble again, without 
knowing what it’s looking for, and again the tiny silence, and the 
listening again, for what, no one knows, a sign of life perhaps, 
that must be it, a sign of life escaping someone, and bound to be 
denied if it came, that’s it surely, if only all that could stop, there’d 
be peace, no, too good to be believed, the listening would go on, 
for the voice to begin again, for a sign of life, for someone to 
betray himself, or for something else, anything, what else can there 
be but signs of life, the fall of a pin, the stirring of a leaf, or the 
little cry that frogs give when the scythe slices them in half, or 
when they are spiked, in their pools, with a spear, one could 
multiply the examples, it would even be an excellcnt'idca, but there 
it is, one can’t. Perhaps it would be better to be blind, the blind 
hear better, full of general knowledge we are this evening, we have 
even piano-tuners up our sleeve, they strike A and hear G, two 
minutfs later, there’s nothing to be seen in any case, this eye is 
an oversight. But this isn’t Worm speaking. True, so far, who 
denies it, it would be premature. Nor I, for that matter, and Mahood 
is notoriously aphonic. But the question is not there, for the 
moment, no one knows where it is, but it is not there, for the time 
being. Ah yes, there’s great fun to be had from an eye, it weeps 
for the least little thing, a yes, a no, the yesses make it weep, the 
noes too, the perhapscs particularly, with the result that the grounds 
for these staggering pronouncements do not always receive the 
attention they deserve. Mahood too, I mean Worm, no, Mahood, 
Mahood too is a great weeper, in case it hasn’t been mentioned, his 
beard is soaking with the muck, it’s quite ridiculous, especially as 
it doesn’t relieve him in the slightest, what could it possibly relieve 
him of, the poor brute is as cold as a fish, incapable even of 
cursing his creator, it’s purely mechanical. But it’s time Mahood 
was forgotten, he should never have been mentioned. No doubt. 
But is it possible to forget him? It is true one forgets everything. 
And yet it is greatly to be feared tliat Mahood will never let 
himself be completely resorbed. Worm yes, Worm will vanish 
utterly, as if he had never been, which indeed is probably the case, 
as if one could ever vanish utterly without having been at some 



previous stage. That’s soon said. But Mahood too for that matter. 
It’s not clear, tut tut. it’s not clear at all. No matter. Mahood will 
stay where he was put, stuck up to his skull in his vase, opposite 
the shambles, beseeching the passers-by, without a word, or a ges- 
ture, or any play of his features, they don’t play, to perceiffc him 
ostensibly, concomitantly with the day’s dish, or independently, 
for reasons unknown, perhaps in the hope of being proven in the 
swim, that is to say guaranteed to sink, sooner or later, that must 
be it, such notions may be entertained, without any process of 
thought. I myself am exceptionally given to the tear, I should have 
preferred this kept dark, in their position I should Save omitted 
this detail, the truth being I have no vent at my disposal, neither 
the aforesaid nor those less noble, how can one enjoy good health 
under such conditions, and what is one to believe, that is not 
the point, to believe this or that, the point is to guess right, noth- 
ing more, they say. If it’s not white it’s very likely black, it must 
be admitted the method lacks subtlety, in view of the intentediate 
shades all equally worthy of a chance. The time they waste re- 
peating the same thing, when they must know pertinentfy it is 
not the right one. Recriminations easily rebutted, if they chose 
to take the trouble, and had the leisure, to reflect on their inanity. 
But how can you think and speak at the same time, how can you 
think about what you have said, may say, are saying, and at the 
same time go on with the last-mentioned, you think about any 
old thing, you say any old thing, more or less, more or less, in a 
daze of baseless unanswerable self-reproach, that’s why they al- 
ways repeat the same thing, the same old litany, the one they 
know by heart, to try and think of something different, of how to 
say something different from the same old thing, always the same 
wrong thing said always wrong, they can find nothing, nothing 
else to say bat the thing that prevent,* them from finding, they’d 
do better to think of what they’re saying, in order at least to vary 
its presentation, that’s wflat matters, but how can you think and 
speak at the same time, 'without a special gift, your thoughts 
wander, your words too, far apart, no, that’s an exaggeration, 
apart, between them would be the place to be, where you suffer, 
rejoice., at being bereft of speech, bereft of thought, and feel noth- 



ing, hear nothing, know nothing, say nothing, are nothing, that 
would be a blessed place to be, where you are. It’s a lucky thing 
they are there, meaning anywhere, to bear the responsibility of 
this state of affairs, with respect to which if one does not know a 
great # deal one knows at least this, that one would not care to have 
it on one’s conscience, to have it on one’s stomach is enough. Yes, 
I’m a lucky man to have them, these voluble shades. I’ll be sorry 
when they go, for I won’t have them always, not at this rate, they’ll 
make me believe I’ve piped up before they’re done with me. The 
master in any case, we don’t intend, listen to them hedging, we 
don’t intenfi, unless absolutely driven to it, to make the mistake 
of inquiring into him, he’d turn out to be a mere high official, we’d 
end up by needing God, we have lost all sense of decency admit- 
tedly, but there are still certain depths we prefer not to sink to. Let 
us keep to the family circle, it’s more intimate, we all know one 
another now, no surprises to be feared, the will has been opened, 
nothing for anybody. This eye, curious how this eye invites inspec- 
tion, ^demands sympathy, solicits attention, implores assistance, 
to do what, it’s not clear, to stop weeping, have a quick look round, 
goggle an instant and close forever. It’s it you see and it alone, it’s 
from it you set out to look for a face, to it you return having 
found nothing, nothing worth having, nothing but a kind of ashen 
smear, perhaps it’s long grey hair, hanging in a tangle round the 
mouth, greasy with ancient tears, or the fringe of a mantle spread 
like a veil, or fingers opening and closing to try and shut out the 
world, or all together, fingers, hair and rags, mingled inextricably. 
Suppositions all equally vain, it’s enough to enounce them to regret 
having spoken, familiar torment, a different past, it’s often to be 
wished, different from yours, when you find out what it was. He is 
hairless and naked and his hands, laid fiat on his knees once and 
for all, are in no danger ,of ever getting into mischief. And the 
face? Balls, all balls, I don’t believe in the eye either, there’s 
nothing here, nothing to see, nothing to‘ see with, merciful coinci- 
dence, when you think what it would be, a world without spectator, 
and vice versa, brrr! No spectator then, and better still no spec- 
tacle, good riddance. If this noise would stop there’d be nothing 
more to say. I wonder what the chat is about at the moment. Worm 



presumably, Mahood being abandoned. And I await my turn. Yea 
indeed. I do not despair, all things considered, of drawing their 
attention to my case, some fine day. Not that it offers the least 
interest, hey, something wrong there, not that it is particularly in- 
teresting, I’ll accept that, but it’s my turn, I too have thS right 
to be shown impossible. This will never end, there’s no sense in 
fooling oneself, yes it will, they’ll come round to it, after me it 
will be the end, they’ll give up, saying. It’s all a bubble, we’ve been 
told a lot of lies, he’s been told a lot of lies, who he, the master, 
by whom, no one knows, the everlasting third party, he’s the one 
to blame, for this state of affairs, the master’s not to bf^me, neither 
are they, neither am I, least of all I, we were foolish to accuse 
one another, the master me, them, himself, they me, the master, 
themselves. I them, the master, myself, we are all innocent, enough. 
Innocent of what, no one knows, of wanting to know, wanting -to 
be able, of all this noise about nothing, of this long sin against 
the silence that enfolds us, we won’t ask any more, what it Rovers, 
this innocence we have fallen to, it covers everything, all, faults, 
all questions, it puts an end to questions. Then it will be over, 
thanks to me all will be over, and they’ll depart, one by one, or 
they’ll drop, they’ll let themselves drop, where they stand, and 
never move again, thanks to me, who could understand nothing, 
of all they deemed it their duty to tell me, do nothing, of all 
they deemed it their duty to tell me to do, and upon us all 
the silence will fall again, and settle, like dust of sand, on the 
arena, after the massacres. Bewitching prospect if ever there was 
one, they are beginning to come round to my opinion, after all 
it’s possible I have one, they make me say, If only this, if only 
that, but the ide? is theirs, no, the idea is not theirs either. As far 
as I personally am concerned there is every likelihood of my being 
incapable of ever desiring or deploring anything whatsoever. For 
it would seem difficult for someone, if I may so describe myself, to 
aspire towards a situation ^f which, notwithstanding the enthusias- 
tic descriptions lavished on him, he has not the remotest idea, or 
to desire with a straight face the cessation of that other, equally 
unintelligible, assigned to him in the beginning and never modified. 
This silence they are always talking about, from which supposedly 



he came, to which he will return when his act is over, he doesn’t 
know what it is, nor what he is meant to do. in order to deserve 
it. That’s the bright boy of the class speaking now, he’s the one 
always called to the rescue when things go badly, he talks all the 
time of merit and situations, he has saved more than one, of suf- 
fering too, he knows how to stimulate the flagging spirit, stop the 
rot, with the simple use of this mighty word alone, even if he has 
to add, a moment later. But what suffering, since he has always 
suffered, which rather damps the rejoicings. But he soon makes up 
for it, he puts all to rights again, invoking the celebrated notions of 
quantity, hrfoit-formation, wear and tear, and others too numerous 
for him to mention, and which he is thus in a position, in the next 
belch, to declare inapplicable to the case before hiita, for there is 
no end to his wits. But, see above, have they not already bent over 
me till black and blue in the face, nay, have they ever done any- 
thing else, during the past — no, no dates for pity’s sake, and another 
question, what am I doing in Mahood’s story, and in Worm’s, or 
rather f what are they doing in mine, there are some irons in the 
fire to be going on with, let them melt. Oh I know, I know, atten- 
tion please, this may mean something, I know, there’s nothing 
new there, it’s all part of the same old irresistible baloney, namely. 
But my dear man, come, be reasonable, look, this is you, look 
at this photograph, and here’s your file, no convictions, I assure 
you, come now, make an effort, at your age, to have no identity, 
it’s a scandal, I assure you, look at this photograph, what, you 
see nothing, true for you, no matter, here, look at this death’s- 
head, you’ll see, you’ll be all right, it won’t last long, here, look, 
here’s the record, insults to policemen, indecent exposure, sins 
against holy ghost, contempt of court, impertinence to superiors, 
impudence to inferiors, deviations from reason* without battery, 
look, no battery, it’s nothing, you’ll be all right, you’ll see, I beg 
your pardon, does he work, good God no, out of the question, 
look, here’s the medical report, spasmodic tabes, painless ulcers, I 
repeat, painless, all is painless, multiple softenings, manifold hard- 
enings, insensitive to blows, sight failing, chronic gripes, light diet, 
shit well tolerated, hearing failing, heart irregular, sweet-tempered, 
smell failing, heavy sleeper, no erections, would you like some 



more, commission in the territorials, inoperable, untransportable, 
look, here’s the face, no no, the other end, I assure you, it’s a 
bargain, I beg your pardon, does he drink, good God yes, pas- 
sionately, I beg your pardon, father and mother, both dead, at 
seven months interval, he at the conception, she at the nativity, 
I assure you, you won’t do better, at your age, no human shape, 
the pity of it, look, here’s the photograph, you’ll see, you’ll be all 
right, what does it amount too, after all, a painful moment, on the 
surface, then peace, underneath, it’s the only way, believe me, 
the only way out, I beg your pardon, have I nothing else, why 
certainly, certainly, just a second, curious you should Vnention it, 
I was wondering myself, just a second, if you were not rather, 
just a second, here we are, this one here, but I wanted to be sure, 
what, you don’t understand, neither do I, no matter, it’s no time 
for levity, yes, I was right, no doubt about it this time, it’s you 
all over, look, here’s the photograph, take a look at that, dying 
on his feet, you’d better hurry, it’s a bargain, I assure yot^ and 
so on, till I’m tempted, no, all lies, they know it well, I, never 
understood, I haven’t stirred, all I’ve said, said I’ve done, said 
I’ve been, it’s they who said it. I’ve said nothing, I haven’t stirred, 
they don't understand, I can’t stir, they think I don’t want to, that 
their conditions don’t suit me, that they’ll hit on others, in the end, 
to my liking, then I’ll stir. I’ll bo in the bag, that’s how I see it, 
I see nothing, they don’t understand, I can’t go to them, they’ll 
have to come and get me, if they want me, Mahood won’t get me 
out, nor Worm either, they set great store on Worm, to coax me 
out, he was something new, different from all the others, meant 
to be, perhaps he was, to me they’re all the same, they don’t under- 
stand, I can’t stir. I’m all right here, I’d be all right here, if they’d 
leave me, let them come and get me, if they want me, they’ll find 
nothing, then they can depart, with an. easy mind. And if there is 
only one, like me, he can. depart without fear of remorse, having 
done all he could, and eveji more, to achieve the impossible and 
so lost his life, or stay with me here, he might do that, and be a 
like for me, that would be lovely, my first like, that would be 
epoch-making, to know I had a like, a congener, he wouldn’t have 
to be like me. he couldn’t hut he like me. he need onlv relax, he 



might believe what he pleased, at the outset, that he was in hell, 
or that the place was charming, he might even exclaim. I’ll never 
stir again, being used to announcing his decisions, at the top of 
his voice, so as to get to know them better, he might even add, to 
cover' all risks. For the moment, it would be his last howler, he 
need only relax, he’d disappear, he’d know nothing either, 'there 
we’d be the two of us, unbeknown to ourselves, unbeknown to each 
other, that’s a darling dream I’ve been having, a broth of a dream. 
And it’s not over. For here comes another, to see what has hap- 
pened to his pal, and get him out. and back to his right mind, 
and back his kin, with a flow of threats and promises, and tales 
like this of wombs and cribs, diapers bepissed and the first long 
trousers, love’s young dream and life’s old lech. Wood and tears 
and skin and bones and the tossing in the grave, and so coax him 
out, as he me, that’s right, pidgin bullskrit, and in the end, having 
lived his life, no, before, but you’ve got my meaning, and there we 
are tf)e three of us. it’s cosier, perpetual dream, you have merely 
to slepp, not even that, it’s like the old jingle. A dog crawled into 
the kitchen and stole a crust of bread, then cook up with I’ve 
forgotten what and walloped him till he was dead, second verse. 
Then all the dogs came crawling and dug the dog a tomb and wrote 
upon the tombstone for dogs and bitches to come, third verse, as 
the first, fourth, as the second, fifth, as the third, give us time, give 
us time and we’ll be a multitude, a thousand, ten thousand, there’s 
no lack of room, adeste, adeste, all ye living bastards, you’ll be 
all right, you’ll see, you’ll never be born again, what am I saying, 
you’ll never have been born, and bring your brats, our hell will 
be heaven to them, after what you’ve done to them. But come to 
think of it are we not already a goodly company, what right have 
I to flatter myself I’m the first, first in time I mean of course, there 
we have a few more questions, please God they don’t take the 
fancy to answer them. What can they be hatching anyhow, at this 
eleventh hour? Can it be they are resolved at last to seize me by 
the horns? Looks like it. In that case tableau any minute. Oyez, 
oyez, I was like them, before being like me, oh the swine, that’s 
one I won’t get over in a hurry, no matter, no matter, the charge 
is sounded, present arms, corpse, to your guns, spermatozoon. I 


383 * 

too, weary of pleading an incomprehensible cause, at six and eight 
the thousand flowers of rhetoric, let myself drop among the con- 
tumacious, nice image that, telescoping space, it must be the Pulit- 
zer Prize, they want to bore me to sleep, at long range for fear I 
might defend myself, they want to catch me alive, so as to be table 
to kill me, thus I shall have lived, they think I’m alive, what a 
business, were there but a cadaver it would smack of body-snatch- 
ing, not in a womb either, the slut has yet to menstruate capable 
of whelping me, that should singularly narrow the field of research, 
a sperm dying, of cold, in the sheets, feebly wagging its little tail, 
perhaps I’m a drying sperm, in the sheets of an innocen* k boy, even 
that takes time, no stone must be left unturned, one ifiustn’t be 
afraid of making a howler, how can one know it is one before it’s 
made, and one it most certainly is, now that it’s irrevocable, for 
the good reason, here’s another, here comes another, unless it 
escapes them in time, what a hope, the bright boy is there, for the 
excellent reason that counts as living too, counts as murder, it’s 
notorious, ah you can’t deny it, some people are lucky, boralrf a 
wet dream and dead before morning, I must say I’m tempted, no, 
the testis has yet to descend that would want any truck with me, 
it’s mutual, another gleam down the drain. And now one last look 
at Mahood, at Worm, we’ll never have another chance, ah will they 
never learn sense, there’s nothing to be got, there was never any- 
thing to be got from those stories, I have mine, somewhere, let 
them tell it to me, they’ll see there’s nothing to be got from it 
either, nothing to be got from me, it will be the end, of this hell 
of stories, you’d think I was cursing them, always the same old 
trick, you’d be sorry for them, perhaps I’ll curse them yet, they’ll 
know what it is to be a subject of conversation. I’ll impute words 
to them you wouldn’t throw to a dog, an ear. a mouth and in the 
middle a few of mind. I’ll get m> own back, a few flitters 
of mind, they’ll see what it’s like. I’ll* clap an eye at random 
in the thick of the mess, ot* the off chance something might stray 
in front of it, then I’ll let dawn my trousers and shit stories on 
them, stories, photographs, records, sites, lights, gods and fellow- 
creatures, the daily round and common task, observing the while. 
Be bom, dear friends, be bom, enter my arse, you’ll just love my 



colic pains, it won’t take long, I’ve the bloody flux. They’ll see 
what it’s like, that it’s not so easy as it looks, that you must have 
a taste for it, that you must be born alive, that it’s not something 
you can acquire, that will teach them perhaps, to keep their nose 
out cf my business. Yes, if I could, but I can’t, whatever it is, I 
can’t any more, there was perhaps a time I could, in the* days 
when I was bursting my guts, as per instructions, to bring back to 
the fold the dear lost lamb, Yd been told he was dear, that he was 
dear to me, that I was dear to him, that we were dear to each 
other, all my life I’ve pelted him with twaddle, the dear departed, 
wondering what he could possibly be like, wondering where we 
could possibly have met, all my life, well, almost, damn the almost, 
all my life, until I joined him and now it’s I am de#r to them, now 
it’s they are dear to me, glad to hear it, they’ll join us, one by one, 
what a pity they are numberless, so are we, dear charnel-house 
of renegades, this evening decidedly everything is dear, no matter, 
the ajicients hear nothing, and my old quarry, there beside me, for 
himbt’s all over, beside me how arc you, underneath me, we’re 
piled* up in heaps, no, that won’t work cither, no matter, it’s a 
detail, for him it’s all over, him the second-last, and for me too, 
me the last, it will soon be all over. I’ll hear nothing more. I’ve 
nothing to do, simply wait, it’s a slow business, he’ll come and lie 
on top of me, lie beside me, my dear tormentor, his turn to suffer 
what he made me suffer, mine to be at peace. How all comes right 
in the end to be sure, it’s thanks to patience, thanks to time, it’s 
thanks to the earth that revolves that the earth revolves no more, 
that time ends its meal and pain comes to an end, you have only to 
wait, without doing anything, it’s no good doing anything, and 
without understanding, there’s no help in understanding, and all 
comes right, nothing comes right, nothing, nothing, this will never 
end, this voice will never stop, T’m alone here, the first and the last, 
I never made anyone suffer, I never stopped anyone’s sufferings, 
no one will ever stop mine, they’ll nevdr depart. I’ll never stir. I’ll 
never know peace, neither will they, but with this difference, that 
they don’t want it, they say they don’t want it, they say I don’t want 
it, don’t want peace, after all perhaps they’re right, how could I want 
it, what is it, they say I suffer, perhaps they’re right, and that I’d feel 


38 $ 

better if I did this, said that, if my body stirred, if my head under- 
stood, if they went silent and departed, perhaps they’re right, how 
would I know about these things, how would I understand what 
they’re talking about. I’ll never stir, never speak, they’ll never go 
silent, never depart, they’ll never catch me, never stop trying, that’s 
that. J’m listening. Well I prefer that, I must say I prefer that, that 
what, oh you know, who you, oh I suppose the audience, well well, 
so there’s an audience, it’s a public show, you buy your seat and you 
wait, perhaps it’s free, a free show, you take your seat and you 
wait for it to begin, or perhaps it’s compulsory, a compulsory 
show, you wait for the compulsory show to begin, it takes time, 
you hear a voice, perhaps it’s a recitation, that’s the shotf, someone 
reciting, selected passages, old favourites, a poetry matinee, or 
someone improvising, you can barely hear him, that’s the show, you 
can’t leave, you’re afraid to leave, it might be worse elsewhere, you 
make the best of it, you try and be reasonable, you came too early, 
here we’d need Latin, it’s only beginning, it hasn’t begun, he’s 
only preluding, clearing his throat, alone in his dressing-room.fhe’11 
appear any moment, he’ll begin any moment, or it’s the Stage- 
manager, giving his instructions, his last recommendations, before 
the curtain rises, that’s the show, waiting for the show, to the 
sound of a murmur, you try and be reasonable, perhaps it’s not 
a voice at all, perhaps it’s the air, ascending, descending, flowing, 
eddying, seeking exit, finding none, and the spectators, where are 
they, you didn’t notice, in the anguish of waiting, never noticed 
you were waiting alone, that’s the show, waiting alone, in the rest- 
less air, for it to begin, for something to begin, for there to be 
something else but you, for the power to rise, the courage to leave, 
you try and be reasonable, perhaps you are blind, probably deaf, 
the show is over, all is over, but where then is the hand, the help- 
ing hand, or merely charitable, or the hired hand, it’s a long time 
coming, to take yours and draw you a\fray, that’s the show, free, 
gratis and for nothing, waiting alone, blind, deaf, you don’t know 
where, you don’t know for 'what, for a hand to come and draw 
you away, somewhere else, where perhaps it’s worse. And now 
for the it, I prefer that, I must say I prefer that, what a memory, 
real fly-paper, I don’t know, I don’t prefer it any more, that’s all 



I know, so why bother about it, a thing you don’t prefer, just 
think of that, bothering about that, perish the thought, one must 
wait, discover a preference, within one’s bosom, then it will be 
time enough to institute an inquiry. Moreover, that’s right, link, 
link.iyou never know, moreover their attitude towards me has not 
changed, I am deceived, they are deceived, they have trifd to 
deceive me, saying their attitude towards me had changed, but 
they haven’t deceived me, I didn’t understand what they were 
trying to do to me, I say what I’m told to say, that’s all there is 
.to it, and yet I wonder, I don’t know, I don’t feci a mouth on me, 
X don’t fee^the jostle of words in my mouth, and when you say a 
poeln you : like, if you happen to like poetry, in the underground, 
or in bed, for yourself, the "'ords are there, somewhere, without 
the least sound, I don’t feel that either, words falling, you don’t 
know where, you don’t know whence, drops of silence through the 
silence, I don’t feel it, I don’t feel a mouth on me, nor a head, do 
I feeL an ear, frankly now, do I feel an car, well frankly now I 
don’ll* so much the worse, I don’t feel an car either, this is awful, 
make*an effort, I must feel something, yes, I feel something, they 
sav i feel something, I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what 
i feel, tell me what I feel and I’ll tell you who I am, they’ll tell 
me who I am, I won’t understand, but the thing will be said, they’ll 
have said who I am, and I’ll have heard, without an ear I’ll have 
heard, and I’ll have said it, without a mouth I’ll have said it. I’ll 
have said it inside me, then in the same breath outside me, perhaps 
that’s what I feel, an outside and an inside and me in the middle, 
perhaps that’s what I am, the thing that divides the world in two, 
on the one side the outside, on the other the inside, that can be as 
thin as foil, I’m neither one side nor the other. I’m in the middle. 
I’m the partition. I’ve two surfaces and no thickness, perhaps that’s 
what I feel, myself vibrating, I’m the tympanum, on the one hand 
the mind, on the other the world, I don’t belong to either, it’s not 
to me they’re talking, it’s not of me they’re talking, no, that’s not 
it, I feel nothing of all that, try something else, herd of shites, 
say something else, for me to hear, I don’t know how, for me to 
say, I don’t know how, what clowns they arc, to keep on saying 
the same thing when they know it’s not the right one, no. 



they know nothing either, they forget, they think they change 
and they never change, they’ll be there saying the same 
thing till they die, then perhaps a little silence, till the next gang 
arrives on the site, I alone am immortal, what can you expect, I 
can’t get born, perhaps that’s their big idea, to keep on shying 
the came old thing, generation after generation, till I go mad and 
begin to scream, then they’ll say. He’s mewled, he’ll rattle, it’s 
mathematical, let’s get out to hell out of here, no point in waiting 
for that, others need us, for him it’s over, his troubles will be 
over, he’s saved, we’ve saved him, they’re all the same, they all 
let themselves be saved, they all let themselves be bor.t, he was a 
tough nut, he’ll have a good time, a brilliant career, in fury and 
remorse, he’ll ficvcr forgive himself, and so depart, thus com- 
muning, in Indian file, or two by two, along the seashore, now it’s 
the seashore, on the shingle, along the sands, in the evening air, 
it’s evening, that’s all I know, evening, shadows, somewhere, any- 
where, on the earth. Go mad, yes, but there it is, what wciild I 
go mad with, and evening isn’t sure either, it needn’t be evening, 
dawn too bestows long shadows, on all that is still standing, that’s 
all that matters, only the shadows matter, with no life of their 
own, no shape and no respite, perhaps it’s dawn, evening of night,